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UCLA Testing Prostate Cancer Hormone Suppressor as COVID-19 Treatment for Men

Researchers at UCLA are conducting a trial at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and at other VA sites across the country to study if temporarily suppressing male hormones reduces the severity of COVID-19 illness in men.

Men are more likely to get infected and die of COVID-19 when compared to women, and researchers believe that this information may be helpful for developing future therapeutic interventions. Specifically, scientists are studying a protein receptor called TMPRSS2. This protein is abnormal in half of prostate cancer patients and is the same receptor researchers believe the virus uses to enter and attack the lungs. When men take the medication degarelix, an FDA-approved hormone suppresser used for prostate cancer, the body temporarily shuts down the production of TMPRSS2, which may block the virus from entering lung tissue.

"It's kind of like a lock and key," said Matthew Rettig, MD, professor of medicine and urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, in a press release."If the virus was the key and its receptor is the lock, then the virus inserts into the lock and can gain entry into the lung while the male hormones makes that lock more accessible to the virus. By suppressing the male hormones, it's kind of like putting a piece of masking tape over the lock so that the key won't fit in."

The medication will be used in COVID-positive men in hopes of reducing deaths and shortening hospital stays.

Read more about the trial.

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