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Clinical Trial of Pacritinib Treatment for Cytokine Storm in Patients with Severe COVID-19 Launches at Atlantic Health System

December 14, 2020

Part of new COVID Research Program, PRE-VENT phase 3 study will test efficacy and safety of investigational cancer drug pacritinib against coronavirus

December 11, 2020, Morristown, NJ – As part of its new COVID Research Program, Atlantic Health System is enrolling hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 in the PRE-VENT phase 3 multicenter clinical trial of pacritinib, an investigational cancer drug. The study will explore pacritinib as a treatment for cytokine storm in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19. Cytokine storm, a type of severe immune overreaction that has presented in severely ill patients with COVID-19, can cause life-threatening respiratory complications. The placebo-controlled study will look at whether this unique drug can prevent COVID progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and mechanical ventilation. Atlantic Health System is the only New Jersey site enrolling patients at Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center in Summit and Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains.  

“Patients with severe COVID-19, particularly those with cancer, are at a high risk for complications and urgently need treatment options,” said Eric Whitman, MD, medical director, Atlantic Health System Cancer Care and local principal investigator (PI) for the study. “Pacritinib is promising due to its unique mode of action and potential to prevent an inflammatory response in patients with COVID-19 infection.”

The PRE-VENT study is sponsored by CTI BioPharma, a leading biopharmaceutical company based in Seattle focused on the development and commercialization of drugs that meet unmet needs in patients suffering from blood-related cancers.  Pacritinib is a new type of oral kinase inhibitor—a drug that blocks enzymes that may cause cancer cells to grow. As a multi-kinase inhibitor, pacritinib has the potential to prevent an inflammatory response that frequently leads to respiratory failure and the need for mechanical ventilation in severe COVID-19.

“The Atlantic Center for Research is proud to offer this clinical trial as one of a number of studies in our leading-edge COVID Research Program,” said John Halperin, MD, medical director, Atlantic Center for Research. “We have long been a leader in clinical research, and our research team has gone ‘above and beyond’ to add to our diverse science portfolio by getting the COVID Research Program up and running.” 

PRE-VENT is a phase 3, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled multicenter study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of pacritinib in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 with or without cancer.  Half of patients will receive pacritinib plus standard of care, while the other half will receive an inert substance (placebo) plus standard of care. Most study participants will receive the drug or placebo for two weeks.  If, after day 14, the clinical care team determines that a study participant’s symptoms are improving and the potential benefit outweighs the potential risk, the participant may be given the assigned therapy for an additional week.  Patients discharged from the hospital will complete their study treatment on an outpatient basis.

For more information about this study, please call the research coordinator at 201-572-9943 or email

Atlantic Health System is leading 15 COVID clinical trials and continues to add studies to the COVID Research Program. To learn more about COVID-19 clinical trials at Atlantic Health System, visit > 

About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System has a long-standing tradition of providing exceptional patient outcomes and experiences. Home to seven award-winning hospitals including Morristown Medical Center, the number one hospital in NJ according to U.S. News & World Report, Castle Connolly and Newsweek’s World’s Best Hospitals, the system has been ranked first in New Jersey in consumer preference by Monigle and first among health systems in New Jersey as a “best workplace” by both Modern Healthcare and Fortune Magazine.

Many of the system’s programs have received national accolades and designations, including top rankings for Orthopedics, Gynecology and Cardiology & Heart Surgery, as well as Atlantic Health System’s Cancer Care program, the only New Jersey-based National Cancer Institute National Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). Additionally, Atlantic Health System Neuroscience at Overlook Medical Center, working with Atlantic Mobile Health, was the first in the nation to deploy and use portable Telestroke technology in ambulances for routine pre-hospital assessment of stroke patients.

Powered by a passionate workforce of 17,000 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, Atlantic Health System serves more than half of the state of New Jersey, including 11 counties and 4.9 million people. The system provides care for the full continuum of health needs across a wide array of settings, including Atlantic Medical Group, one of the largest multi-specialty practices in New Jersey with more than 1,000 physicians and providers, 12 urgent care centers, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, Atlantic Visiting Nurse and Atlantic Anywhere’s Virtual Visits. Facilitating connections between these services on both land and air is the transportation fleet of Atlantic Mobile Health.

With a clear sense of purpose and an unparalleled culture, Atlantic Health System attracts top leaders in the field of health care, from CEO Brian Gragnolati, who was Chairman of the American Hospital Association in 2019, to the numerous team members who serve as leaders across national clinical associations and research entities.