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Roche’s Genentech Drug could treat Asthma and Allergies

Update Date: Jul 03, 2014 10:01 AM EDT

According to a recent study, a new drug has the potential to treat asthma and allergies. The researchers reported that the drug manufactured by Roche Biotech's Genentech called quilizumab can treat the two health conditions by preventing the body's production of a particular immune system protein that triggers allergic reactions.

Quilizumab works by targeting the blood cells that are responsible for producing immunoglobulin type E (IgE). IgE levels are typically low. However, in people with allergies, the protein immediately binds to allergens, which leads to the release of inflammatory substances when the body is re-exposed to the allergens. In order to analyze the effects of the drug on people's allergy and asthma symptoms, the researchers tested the drug on participants suffering from allergies and asthma.

They recruited 39 people with allergies and 39 people with mild asthma. The participants were randomly given quilizumab or a placebo. The researchers were able to measure IgE levels through the participants' bloodstream after they were exposed to their particular allergens.

"The subjects who received the drug not only had a reduction in their total IgE level, it also seemed to block production of new IgE in response to the allergen they inhaled," said study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Harris, principal medical director of immunology, tissue growth and repair for the drug manufacturer Genentech, which funded the study reported by WebMD.

"This could be very exciting, if it works," commented Dr. Bradley Chipps, an allergist in Sacramento, CA. "It could be even more effective than omalizumab, which binds to IgE after it's produced. This drug tries to keep it from being produced."

Despite the findings, one critic stated that the study did not find evidence that the drug is effective for treating moderate to severe asthma. The researchers plan on conducting a follow-up study involving 560 people suffering from more severe asthma.

The study was published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine.

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