Some new treatments for leukemia and lymphoma may also be effective against airborne and food allergies. The medication, Ibrutinib, was recently FDA-approved for people with certain cancers and has been found effective at stopping reactions to common airborne allergens. It is now being tested for its affect on food allergies.

The findings from a team at Northwestern University were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showing the removal of allergic reactions to airborne particles when taking Ibrutinib.

The cancer drug binds to allergy-inducing immune response cells.

Ibrutinib works by binding to an enzyme called Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inside immune cells. That enzyme is critical to the growth of some cancers and to the body’s response to inhaled allergens.

The effect is a reduction in the cancer’s growth or, in the case of allergens, a lowering of the body’s immuno-response which is the cause of the symptoms of an allergic reaction. The immune response for airborne allergens was studied by scientists at the drug’s maker along with researchers at Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center.

The study at Johns Hopkins involved cancer patients specifically recruited because of their diagnosed allergies. Skin test responses were recorded before, during, and after Ibrutinib treatments and compared to control groups. The allergy-deflecting effects lasted for up to two months after treatment.

The drug itself may not be formulated correctly, as-is, for allergy prevention, but new studies could unlock its potential as a starting point for “allergy drugs.” A group recruited specifically for food allergies and not cancers is being formed for further study. Funding is being sought to further that study.

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