First MFT patient takes part in global COVID-19 ‘RUXCOVID’ research trial

Our first patient has participated in the RUXCOVID research trial, which is testing whether the drug ruxolitinib could be a potential treatment for COVID-19 (coronavirus).

We recruited our first patient to this global study at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) today, 7 May.

The trial is sponsored and funded by pharmaceutical company, Novartis, and is on the NIHR list of nationally prioritised COVID-19 research studies.

A number of COVID-19 research trials are currently taking place at our hospital trust, spanning four workstreams: data, diagnostics, observation and treatments. RUXCOVID is one of our ‘treatments’ trials, which are looking at different medications and interventions in the hope they may prove effective against the novel coronavirus.

RUXCOVID is open globally to COVID-19 patients over the age of 12. At MFT, due to our size as one of the largest acute trusts in the UK and the broad spectrum of patients we care for, we are recruiting adult patients receiving care at the MRI and paediatric patients being cared for at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH) – the largest children’s hospital in Europe.

Dr Ben Parker; Consultant Rheumatologist and Medical Director of the NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility (CRF) at the MRI, is the MFT study lead at the MRI, while Dr Stephen Hughes; Consultant Paediatric Immunologist, leads RUXCOVID at RMCH.

Dr Parker said: “One of MFT’s unique strengths is being able to recruit both adults and children to COVID-19 studies. This is due to the range of specialist hospitals, within our portfolio, our proud history of delivering cutting-edge research and the established infrastructure we host; with a children’s Clinical Research Facility at RMCH, as well as three adult dedicated experimental medicine research units within the overall NIHR Manchester CRF.

On behalf of Manchester CRF and MFT, I’d like to say how proud we are to be supporting the global COVID-19 research effort.

The purpose of the RUXCOVID study is to evaluate the efficacy and safety of ruxolitinib in the treatment of patients with pneumonia brought on by COVID-19.

Ruxolitinib is a licenced drug that is already used in the UK to treat some forms of blood cancer and essentially works by inhibiting (blocking) signals to genes called JAK1 and JAK2, which help control the number of blood cells the body makes.

Dr Ben Parker

Dr Ben Parker

Dr Parker said: “While most people with COVID-19 develop mild symptoms, around five per cent develop severe respiratory illness, requiring admission to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Many of those patients with severe respiratory disease due to COVID-19 have features consistent with the cytokine release syndrome (CRS), also referred to as cytokine storm, an inflammatory syndrome that can be triggered by a variety of factors such as infections and certain drugs.

There is early evidence from research carried out in labs that blocking signals to the JAK1 and JAK2 genes could have a beneficial effect on the CRS and the course of severe respiratory disease in patients with COVID-19.

Dr Hughes added: “In children with COVID-19, the symptoms are usually less severe than in adults. As a result, there is less clinical data about the course of COVID-19 in children, though CRS is a more common complication of other infections in children than adults.

We are grateful to all patients taking part in this clinical trial at MFT and across the world. There are currently no proven treatments for COVID-19, so every person who takes part in research is helping to increase our understanding of this disease and the development of potential treatments.

RUXCOVID is a randomised trial with patients allocated to different arms: the ‘treatment group’ receiving the trial drug and standard care and the ‘control group’, receiving standard care only. All participants, whether they are randomly allocated to the treatment or control group, will receive the best available standard care.

Read more about the RUXCOVID trial on