Edinburgh Infectious Diseases
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Covid-19: Targeting sugar-binding proteins and immunity in cancer patients

Recent Covid-19 clinical trial results from Edinburgh Infectious Diseases

Clinical Trial shows sugar-binding protein is a promising target for treatment of Covid-19

New research suggests that inhibition of a carbohydrate-binding protein “Galectin-3” could reduce inflammation and lead to better outcomes in patients with Covid-19.

Galectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that are involved in many physiological functions, such as inflammation and immune responses. Researchers found that high levels of Galectin-3 were linked to poorer Covid-19 outcomes. Severe COVID-19 cases have been linked to inflammation of lung tissue known as “pneumonitis”, which can lead to scarring (fibrosis) in the lungs if left untreated.

A small molecule drug called GB0139 is known to inhibit Galectin-3 and has been found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic actions in patients with other lung conditions. Through a small clinical study (41 patients), researchers at Edinburgh Infectious Diseases compared the outcomes of Covid-19 patients treated with and without GB0139. They found GB0139 reduced the levels of Galectin-3 in Covid-19 patients as well as that of an anti-inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein. The data support larger trials to determine the clinical efficacy.

Contributing author, Professor David Dockrell, Chair of Infection Medicine and Director of the Centre for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh said:

Although the numbers of participants were small, the drug achieved encouraging results that lowered inflammation and clotting markers, while having good safety. Larger trials on similar viruses could be valuable in the future.

This work is part of a wider clinical study, DEFINE, that aims to test promising new therapies in small numbers of Covid-19 patients.

Read the paper: An inhaled Galectin-3 Inhibitor in Covid-19 Pneumonitis: A Phase Ib/IIa Randomized Controlled Clinical Trail (DEFINE)

DEFINE clinical trial

Patients receiving treatment for cancer have high protection from SARS-Cov-2 infection following COVID-19 vaccination, study shows

Results from the clinical study SCCAMP (Scottish Covid Cancer iMmunity Prevalence) suggest that Covid-19 symptomatic infection rates in patients receiving anticancer treatment were comparable to the general population during the early stages of the pandemic. The results also show that vaccination offered significant protection to cancer patients, irrespective of the type of anticancer treatment they received.


SCCAMP is the largest longitudinal study of patients with solid tumours undergoing anti-cancer treatment during the early stages of the pandemic. Researchers collected blood samples regularly over a 1 year period, from patients with solid tumours who were attending the NHS for routine treatment for cancer in Scotland. These samples were tested for markers of immune response to Covid-19 using an antibody test and compared with samples from the general population. 

Impact on clinical practice of cancer patients

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the treatment of cancer patients. This is partly due to delayed and disrupted cancer services but also because of fears that cancer patients may be more vulnerable to severe infection. However, the results from this study encourage cancer teams to continue treating patients for cancer while the Covid-19 pandemic is ongoing.

Read the paper: The Scottish COVID Cancer Immunity Prevalence Study: A Longitudinal Study of SARS-CoV-2 Immune Response in Patients Receiving Anti-Cancer Treatment

The SCCAMP study