Asthma Drug Uses Antibody To Reduce Symptoms


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Asthma, a disease that causes wheezing, breathlessness, and chest tightening, affects 18.7 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a new experimental drug is here to stop it.

Quilizumab, an inhalable drug developed by Genentech, has shown the ability to reduce asthma symptoms even six months after individuals stopped taking it, according to a new study published on July 2 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Quilizumab takes a different approach than most asthma medications on the market. It targets elevated serum levels of allergen-specific immunoglobulin (IgE), which people with asthma sometimes have a higher level of in their bloodstream compared to people in general. IgE sits on the surface of cells and is what causes people with asthma to react to allergens such as pollen and dust mites with common asthma symptoms.

The experimental drug targets IgE with a humanized monoclonal antibody. Researchers tested the drug in two groups—one group of 36 allergy patients and another group of 29 people with mild asthma, randomly giving them either quilizumab or an inactive placebo.

Researchers note that in “both studies, quilizumab treatment was well tolerated and led to reductions in total and allergen-specific serum IgE that lasted for at least 6 months after the cessation of dosing.” Furthermore, in people who were subjected to an “allergen challenge,” the drug blocked the formation of new IgE and reduced “allergen-induced early and late asthmatic airway responses by 26 and 36” percent, respectively.

There is only one current drug on the market that targets IgE called omalizumab and it requires one to three injections every two to four weeks. Quilizumab, because it is inhalable, is more convenient and lasts longer, making it a more attractive option to people with asthma.

Study author Jeffrey Harris said a follow-up clinical trial involving 560 people with more severe asthma is underway, and the results will likely be available next year.

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