While researchers continue to distinguish types of asthma, a new antibody may benefit people with asthma who have inflamed air tubes in their lungs.
“The bottom line for me is I think we have advanced our study of asthma enough to know it’s not a single disease. This is the first prospective example of getting the right drugs to the right patients and showing when you do, the impact can be very beneficial,” said Dr. Sally Wenzel, principal investigator.
The trial, published in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, tested dupilumab, on patients with moderate to severe allergic asthma with higher levels of eosinophil, or immune cells that promote inflammation in the lungs. Eighty seven percent of patients who received the drug showed more stability and decreased symptom outbreaks.
“If you have a gallon of water, it takes you longer to put it through a garden hose than a fire hose,” said Dr. Linda Ford of Bellevue, Neb., another of the researchers. “So this tells you how narrow the tubes are to get the air out. Looking at that number, we can see a difference between where they were baseline before being given the drug to after we put them on the drug.”
The study lasted 12 weeks across 28 sites and included 104 patients split evenly between the dupilumab and placebo groups.
Asthma is a disease that causes difficulty breathing and can lead to episodes of breathlessness, wheezing and chest tightness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of every 12 adults in the U.S. has asthma. The CDC estimates nine people die daily from the breathing problem.
Ford said she was pleased with the drugs lack of general side effects at the 300 milligram dosage given to the test group.
Wenzel, director of the asthma institute at the University of Pittsburgh, said the findings advanced the current thought in the field that asthma comes in multiple variations.
She said the next step is to advance the study with experimenting through various dosages and a broader range of patient symptoms to determine the best candidates for the drug.
Dr. Ted Naureckas, director of the pulmonary function lab at the University of Chicago, said the early results are promising, but is anxious to see the next wave of testing.
“It’s always good to have more therapies as a physician, but until more studies are done it’s always tough to know how this therapy will be best used,” he said.