New Compound Might Be Improvement Over Allergy Shots

SUNDAY Nov. 9, 2008 -- An experimental compound may represent an improvement over burdensome shots to treat allergies, not only because it would be delivered over a shorter course of time, but because it contains no actual allergens.

"CYT003-QbG10 does not contain any allergen components, which gives it major advantages," said lead investigator Dr. Audra Blaziene, an associate professor in the Center of Pulmonology and Allergology at Vilnius University Hospital Santariskiu Klinikos, in Lithuania. "In the studies conducted, it has been shown to be safe and suitable for different allergies, which is important when patients have multiple allergies. Furthermore, it is applied in a short treatment course over a few weeks only."

But the therapy won't be available tomorrow, or even soon after that.

"This looks promising and certainly encouraging. We hope it works out, but I don't like people to jump too early and get their hopes up," said Dr. David Resnick, director of the allergy division at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital at New York Presbyterian in New York City. "This certainly is not coming out next month."

"As is usual for clinical development of new drug candidates, such a process takes several years," Blaziene added. "If all goes well, we expect that it will take another four to five years until this immunotherapy could become available on the market."

Blaziene was to present the findings Sunday at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's annual meeting, in Seattle.

Allergy shots are the only current therapy to attack the root causes of allergies. But the shots are cumbersome for the patient, involving up to 80 shots over as many as three to five years. And because they are based on actual allergens, the shots carry the risk of side effects.

"This is why only well-trained allergists can apply it, and it may not be used in patients with severe allergy and asthma," Blaziene explained. "Furthermore, patients have to live not so far from an allergy clinic, and they can only treat one allergy at the time."

The new compound, on the other hand, is made up of synthetic DNA.

This study involved 80 patients with allergies to house dust mites and/or cat allergens who were randomized to receive six weekly injections of the compound or a placebo.

Not only was the compound safe with few side effects, it also lowered allergy symptoms compared to the placebo.

The study did not look at how effective the compound was compared to allergy shots.

"You really can't tell if it's going to work better from this study. They don't compare it with regular allergy injections," Resnick said. "It's certainly a lot simpler in that patients got injections for six weeks as opposed to regular allergy injections that can take a few years to complete. If someone can get improvement quickly with a few injections, it would be certainly better than regular allergy injections."

Nor does the study show how long the effect would last or even if the compound would be equally safe if given to hundreds of people instead of dozens, Resnick added.

More information

Visit the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology for more on allergy shots.

Posted: November 2008


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