Nov 022013


A small study at Boston Children’s Hospital may lead to a breakthrough treatment for kids with life-threatening peanut allergies.

Researchers there combined an FDA-approved allergy drug, Xolair, with increased exposure to peanuts. Xolair is made by Swiss pharmaceutical companyRoche AG’s Genentech unit.

The pilot included just 13 children, and the results were dramatic: Just three allergic reactions requiring intervention with epinephrine during the year-long study. Finding a first-ever treatment for peanut allergies is an important health care goal and a huge market opportunity. To underscore that point, one of the chief researchers in the study, Dr. Dale Umetsu, has now been hired away by Genentech to be its principal medical director.

The study was based on a 2010 protocol for desensitizing children to milk allergies, also developed by Umetsu and other Children’s researchers. Participants received allergy drug injections for three months. After this pretreatment, all 13 subjects tolerated an initial 11 desensitization doses, including the maximum dose of about two peanuts, and required minimal or no rescue therapy.

Then for eight weeks, subjects tolerated doses of about 16 peanuts, and after that the drug injections were discontinued. At the end of the yearlong study, 12 of the 13 participants could tolerate about 20 peanuts per day without receiving much additional treatment beyond an occasional antihistamine.

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