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Researchers at UC San Diego Health have launched a clinical trial to study tocilizumab, a drug for inflammatory disorders. This trial is part of a global effort to determine if the medication can be used to help COVID-19 patients with lung damage.

Tocilizumab is commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and is marketed as Actemra. It works by blocking cellular receptors for interleukin-6 (IL-6), a small protein that can trigger inflammation in the body. When this receptor is blocked, the body's inflammatory immune response is dampened.

Some patients with COVID-19 overexpress IL-6, which can cause the "cytokine storm" found in some cases of COVID-19. This can lead to life-threatening inflammation and damage to the lungs and other organs. For this reason, tocilizumab may help these patients.

Chinese researchers in Wuhan, China, initially began treating a small number of COVID-19 patients with tocilizumab in the early days of the virus. This intervention showed promising results, and the Chinese National Health commission now includes it in its treatment guidelines for COVID-19-related pneumonia and lung conditions.

The trial will enroll 330 participate at around 70 sites around the world. UC San Diego Health will recruit up to 20 participants for its part of the study. In the study, participants diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia or poor lung gas exchange will receive intravenous infusion of either tocilizumab or placebo.

Atul Malhotra, M.D. chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at UC San Diego Health, said in a press release that his team is looking into three primary questions:

"Does tocilizumab improve the health and clinical status of treated COVID-19 patients? Does it reduce the mortality rate due to COVID-19 pneumonia? Does it reduce the need for mechanical ventilation or need for patients to go into intensive care units?"

The results of the study will help determine tocilizumab's potential role in COVID-positive patients with lung damage. According to Genentech and Roche, the trial is expected to be completed by early summer.

Read more from UC San Diego Health.

Watch our latest HealthDay Now as we take a look at how living through the COVID-19 pandemic impacts children socially, mentally and emotionally.

One year in, this is their "new normal," but what does that mean for them? From social isolation to remote learning to a loss of structure and normalcy, we discuss how living during the pandemic has both short- and long-term effects on children.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with:

  • Dr. Mark Reinecke, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University
  • Tracy Compton, a parent
  • Stephen Guerriero, a teacher
  • Jake Anderson, a student

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

HD Live! Videos

UPDATE 1/26/21: Since our HD Live! interview with CEO Andrei Doroshin, the Philadelphia Health Department has severed its ties with the organization. The nonprofit has changed its status to a for-profit entity.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a look at Philly Fighting Covid, a nonprofit organization run by graduate students from Drexel University that aims to help with mass COVID-19 vaccination in Philadelphia.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Andrei Doroshin, founder of Philly Fighting Covid.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a deep dive into the vaccine rollout across the country.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a member of the Biden COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a look back and a look ahead at COVID-19 and its impact on the United States and its healthcare workers.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. David Shulkin, former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, ex-CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and an accomplished healthcare executive, and Dr. Joel Zivot, anesthesiologist and clinician at Emory University Hospital ICU.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Anthony Fauci about the latest on COVID-19, including the vaccines, the infection rates and the future.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Our latest HD Live! is a conference wrap-up of the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2020.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, American Heart Association President-Elect, for a summary of the highlights of the AHA Scientific Sessions 2020.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Our latest HD Live! discussion is on how healthcare in America could be impacted by a Trump or Biden victory.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Health and Research Transformation at the University of Michigan, and Brian Blase, who served as a healthcare adviser to President Trump from 2017-2019 and is now president and CEO of Blase Policy Strategies.

Watch our in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Our latest HD Live! discussion is an overview of IDWeek, the annual meeting of leading infectious disease experts worldwide.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Inger Damon and Dr. Tom Talbot, IDWeek Chairs, for a summary of the latest data on a range of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

Watch our in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Our latest HD Live! discussion is an overview of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) national conference and exhibition.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with AAP's Dr. Elizabeth Murray on the key takeaways of the event.

Watch our in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.