(BPT) - Earlier this year, 55-year-old Marc Baranski, his wife, Lynn, and their two kids traveled from their home in Princeton, New Jersey, to visit family in Florida. Unfortunately, upon returning, the entire family developed symptoms of COVID-19.
While his wife and kids recovered relatively quickly, Baranski struggled. He went to an urgent care facility where it was discovered his oxygen saturation was 90%, and he was immediately sent to a local hospital where a chest X-ray confirmed he had COVID-19 pneumonia.
After diagnosis, Baranski received oxygen but his symptoms did not improve. He was also given vitamins C and D, convalescent plasma, and steroids. However, he continued to decline, requiring more oxygen, so Lynn took action and began searching for information to support his care and recovery.
During her research, Lynn learned that a majority of deaths associated with COVID-19 are caused by inflammation from cytokine (sy-toe-kine) storm, an over-reaction of the immune system (or hyper-response). As many as 89% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are at risk of cytokine storm, a leading cause of COVID-19 disease progression, including death. But there’s good news: hospitals across the U.S. are seeking patients to enroll in a Phase 3 trial evaluating an investigational treatment called lenzilumab(TM) designed specifically to target this storm.
Lynn found out that a nearby hospital in Livingston, New Jersey was one of the hospitals enrolling patients in the Phase 3 lenzilumab study, and that the duration of treatment for lenzilumab is only 24 hours.
When she learned that the goal of the trial is to determine if lenzilumab can help hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover faster, she called the trial director at that hospital, Dr. Anup Patel, to see if Marc could participate.
Marc's care teams connected and confirmed that he met the criteria to participate and he was transferred to St. Barnabas and enrolled.
Baranski was enrolled into the study according to the clinical trial protocol (which is randomized, meaning there is a 50/50 chance he was dosed with either lenzilumab or placebo) shortly after being transferred to St. Barnabas. It is important to note that all subjects participating in this study are able to receive other COVID-19 therapies that are considered standard of care. While it is not clear which treatment group Marc was assigned to, within 24 hours after receiving the study drug, his symptoms dramatically improved and within about a week, he was discharged from the hospital and has since made a full recovery.
The importance of clinical trials
"I viewed the trial as doing everything I could to support my recovery, and a great way to contribute to the fight against COVID-19," said Marc. "I highly encourage anyone in the same position to seek out this trial, ask about it and enroll if eligible — you are your own best advocate, so ask what your options are."
Participating in a clinical trial can help researchers discover potential treatment options that may help patients recover faster and reduce their time in the hospital.
"To recover from this pandemic we will need therapeutics, combination approaches and vaccines," said Cameron Durrant, MD, MBA, chief executive officer of Humanigen, the biopharmaceutical company developing lenzilumab. "When it comes to COVID-19, we believe that having a therapeutic, like lenzilumab, that may reduce the time to recovery and possibly send patients home earlier, is a near-term solution that has the potential to be a game-changer in the face of this pandemic."
Make a difference
"Participating in clinical trials is a great way to access emerging solutions in addition to standard of care therapies. In the midst of the pandemic, it's important for patients to ask their doctor if they are eligible for any clinical trials. I recommend having this conversation from the start and asking a few times again if your conditions change," said Anup Patel, MD, Clinical Trial Investigator, St. Barnabas Hospital, Livingston, NJ.
"I want to encourage anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to learn about potential clinical trials before they get to the hospital, and if they are in the hospital, patients should ask about what ongoing clinical trials they might qualify for — even if the trial isn’t being conducted at the hospital where they are being treated," says Baranski. "My story serves as a critical reminder of the importance of patient/family partnership with their health care team, and how patients can proactively participate in clinical trial conversations even in the midst of a pandemic."
To learn more and to find out about a trial site near you, visit www.stopstorm.com.