Covid-19: Radiotherapy to treat severely affected patients, a promising avenue

RESEARCH – Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers have been testing the effectiveness of radiation therapy for patients with severely affected lungs. The first results seem encouraging.

To treat the patients most affected by Covid-19, science is still groping. From the start of the first wave, researchers around the world have suggested the possibility of using radiotherapy to treat patients’ lungs. Since then, studies on this topic have shown promising results. Éric Deutsch, head of Gustave Roussy’s (IGR) radiotherapy department, outlined these findings in an interview published in the columns of the scientific journal La Recherche.

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Covid-19: vaccine, treatments … Where’s the research?

“This link between pneumopathy and radiotherapy dates back to the 1930s and 1940s, when US publications describe that irradiation to the lungs at a very low dose made it possible to quickly cure certain patients with bacterial or viral infections”, the researcher tells the journal. When the first wave of Covid began, in January 2020, at a time when no one was sure what to do, there was a debate among all the radiation oncologists on the planet whether they should dig up and use this idea. radiation therapy. “

Everyone comes to the conclusion that low doses are well tolerated.– Éric Deutsch, head of Gustave Roussy’s radiotherapy department

While some scientists were skeptical, others decided to try the experiment on a small number of patients. In the United States, Iran, India, Spain and Brazil, the results are encouraging. The first data at Emory University in Atlanta show that with low irradiance there is no risk of aggravation and that the patient’s condition even improves quickly. A team from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran is also reporting an improvement in the condition of some patients. And at the end of November, a team from Madrid published with positive conclusions with even lower doses than in Atlanta. “In summary, everyone concludes that low doses are well tolerated, that there is no major radiation induced deterioration in patients, and that there are patients who improve. Really”, pointing to Eric Deutsch.

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Slow motion research in France

In France, studies on patients have been refused several times by personal protection committees. But thanks to experiments with mice and fragments of human lungs, the team of scientists led by Eric Deutsch has already shown that low doses of radiation could inhibit pneumonia, even at doses even lower than those used. elsewhere in the world. Good news, knowing that too high doses can be carcinogenic. “But refuse to irradiate someone with a life expectancy of less than three weeks if nothing is done versus give them a risk (which is not certain) of cancer at 10 or 15 years, the benefit-risk balance is clearly in favor of radiation. “, notes the researcher, who hopes to soon get the green light to start experiments on Covid patients.

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