A clinical trial will test whether cancer patients can be protected from COVID-19, and other viral infections, by daily use of a medicated nasal spray.

The C-SMART trial - led by the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the National Centre for Infections in Cancer (NCIC) - is enrolling patients from today.

For cancer patients, preventing COVID-19 is particularly important as they are often immune-compromised and at risk of severe illness from infections.

Although COVID-19 vaccines are now being distributed in some nations, it’s not yet clear how people with a compromised immune system will respond.

Professor Monica Slavin, Director of Infectious Diseases at Peter Mac and of the NCIC, said the community was rightly looking forward to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine becoming widely available.

“But for cancer patients and other people who are immune compromised – those we consider at most risk during a pandemic – it is important to recognise that vaccination may not be fully protective,” Professor Slavin said.

“We need other options to protect people and, thankfully, we have an option at hand.”

The nasal spray used in the trial includes the drug interferon - which disrupts a virus’ ability to replicate. It is a licensed drug that has been used for decades to treat other viruses and cancer and it is not absorbed into the body.

Professor Slavin and her colleagues believe interferon could protect against COVID-19 along with a host of other respiratory viruses – such as influenza and the common cold (rhinovirus) – which can also be life-threatening for some people.

The C-SMART trial is open to cancer patients who are over 18, and who have had cancer treatment within the past year. Participants will be randomised to receive either the medicated spray or a placebo.

The trial is now open to cancer patients treated at Peter Mac, and is soon to be at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, St Vincent’s Hospital and Austin Health / Olivia Newton John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, as well as Sydney’s Westmead Hospital.

Participants won’t be prevented from also taking a COVID-19 vaccine should one become available.

The study also goes beyond prevention of COVID-19 infection – and will also assess novel treatment approaches for cancer patients who test positive for COVID-19.

“Thankfully we are now seeing no community transmission of COVID-19 in Australia and we hope this continues. However, if we do see cases, we will be prepared with treatment options,” Professor Slavin said.

“We are confident the C-SMART trial will provide important insights that can help guide how best to protect and care for cancer patients, and inform the global response to the pandemic.”

For more information or to register your interest in the C-SMART trial, go online to www.csmart.com.au

Contacts:

For more information contact the Peter Mac Communications team on 0417 123 048.