Clinicians and scientists apply symptom tracking to COVID-19

|Jun 4|magazine9 min read

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y., June 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- A patient-reported symptom tracking method used for patients with cancer has now been adapted for patients with COVID-19. Investigating the effect of famotidine on non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19, clinicians at Northwell Health and cancer researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) developed the method to use in addition to laboratory tests. This outpatient approach addresses the need to care for the majority of COVID-19 patients who do not require hospitalization. The first clinical case series showed that famotidine may help COVID-19 patients with mild to moderately severe symptoms.  Next, the team will test the drug in a randomized clinical trial.

Published in the journal GUT, the Northwell-CSHL case series is unique in adapting quantitative tracking of patient reported outcome measures. The methodology is suitable for testing drugs in patients well enough to be managed at home.

The lead author of the study, CSHL Assistant Professor Tobias Janowitz, is a Medical Oncologist and Cancer Researcher, who investigates the whole-body causes and effects of diseases. "The experience of a patient at one point in time is very valuable, but learning about the change in their experience over time is even more important," says Janowitz.  "Change indicates if the patients' condition is getting better or worse. A graded symptom score enables the physician and the patient to track symptoms using numbers."

Janowitz and colleagues developed a 4-point scale for six common COVID-19 associated symptoms that patients score every day. Janowitz says, "The experiences from many patients become comparable and can be pooled for analysis."

If a drug speeds recovery, then most patients will report more rapid improvement of symptoms.

The innovations in this study are the product of scientists and physicians who never expected to work on a pandemic. Chief, General Internal Medicine, Northwell Health and Professor at the Feinstein Institutes Joseph Conigliaro, a co-author on the study, says, "What we did is we used our existing tools and talents, but we modified it in ways that were very helpful."

CSHL Professor David Tuveson, Director of the CSHL Cancer Center and another co-author, is interested in the broader implications: "You're trying to scientifically assess a symptom, is what you're really doing."

The early findings of this case series were communicated to co-author Dr. Timothy Wang at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Wang and colleagues were also able to find an association between famotidine usage and the improved outcomes of patients hospitalized for COVID-19.

Conigliaro is hopeful: "I think there'll be another surge, but we'll be much better prepared. Hopefully lives will be saved."

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. For more information, visit www.cshl.edu.

About the Feinstein Institutes
The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider and private employer in New York State. Home to 50 research labs, 2,500 clinical research studies and 5,000 researchers and staff, the Feinstein Institutes raises the standard of medical innovation through its five institutes of behavioral science, bioelectronic medicine, cancer, health innovations and outcomes, and molecular medicine. We make breakthroughs in genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and are the global scientific leader in bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we produce knowledge to cure disease, visit feinstein.northwell.edu.

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SOURCE Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory