Researchers say ibrutinib seems to protect those with COVID-19 from lung damage and respiratory distress. They will now conduct a trial to see if the medication can reduce a patient’s need for a ventilator, improve survival and reduce their time in the hospital.

Dr. Steven Treon, the principal investigator for the trial, recently published a report on six blood cancer patients who had been taking ibrutinib for several years and who had recently been infected with coronavirus. Five of them had no shortness of breath, did not need to be hospitalized, and steadily improved. The sixth patient was on a lower dose and ended up on a ventilator. When he was given the standard dose of ibrutinib, he rapidly improved and was home in two weeks.

“We think it might be a game-changer because, if you think about COVID, the of why patients die is because their lungs are injured. So, if you can use a drug that actually blocks these inflammatory cytokines from destroying the link, you can prevent patients from ending up on mechanical ventilators, as well as lung damage,” Treon said.

The ibrutinib trial will be done at Brigham and Women’s Hospital with 46 patients. Treon said early results might be available in late June or early July.