First Report of MM Patient Successfully Treated for COVID-19 With Tocilizumab

Mark S. Lesney

April 08, 2020

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Recent research has shown that severe cases of COVID-19 show an excessive immune response and a strong cytokine storm, which may include high levels of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GSF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). Following up on that research, investigators from China reported the first case of COVID-19 in a patient with multiple myeloma (MM) who was successfully treated with the humanized anti–IL-6 receptor antibody tocilizumab (an off-label use in the United States). The exceptional case report was published online in Blood Advances, an American Society of Hematology journal.

A 60-year-old man working in Wuhan, China, developed chest tightness without fever and cough on Feb. 1, 2020, and was admitted immediately after computed tomography (CT) imaging of his chest showed multiple ground-glass opacities and pneumatocele located in both subpleural spaces. He received 400 mg of moxifloxacin IV daily for 3 days while swab specimens were collected and tested by real-time reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction. A positive result for SARS-CoV-2 infection was received 3 days later. The patient was subsequently given 200-mg umifenovir (Arbidol) tablets orally, three times daily, for antiviral treatment.

The patient had a history of symptomatic MM, which was diagnosed in 2015. The patient received two cycles of induction chemotherapy consisting of bortezomib, thalidomide, and dexamethasone, and his symptoms completely disappeared. After that, he received thalidomide for maintenance.

Chest CT imaging on hospital day 8 showed that the bilateral, multiple ground-glass opacities from the first scan remained, and laboratory investigations revealed a high level of serum IL-6. On hospital day 9, the patient was given a single, one-time dose of 8 mg/kg tocilizumab, administered by IV. On hospital day 12, his chest tightness disappeared. "After tocilizumab administration, the IL-6 level decreased gradually over the following 10 days (from 121.59 to 20.81 pg/mL), then increased rapidly to the peak (317.38 pg/mL), and then decreased to a low level (117.10 pg/mL). The transient rebounding of the IL-6 level to the peak does not mean COVID-19 relapse: Instead, this might be attributed to the recovery of the normal T cells," the authors wrote.

On hospital day 19, the patient's chest CT scan showed that the range of ground-glass opacities had obviously decreased, and he was declared cured and discharged from the hospital. The patient had no symptoms of MM, and related laboratory findings were all in normal ranges, according to the researchers.

"This case is the first to prove that tocilizumab is effective in the treatment of COVID-19 in MM with obvious clinical recovery; however, randomized controlled trials are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of tocilizumab," the researchers concluded.

The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Zhang X et al. Blood Adv. 2020;4(7):1307-10.

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