A new study from Northwestern University has led to progress in the development of a drug to prevent anaphylactic shock,media reported. The drug was originally designed as a new cancer treatment for chemotherapy, but now researchers believe taking it before meals can prevent severe allergic reactions.
BTK inhibitors are relatively new drugs originally designed to block a particular cell protein known to play a role in the development of several cancers, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia and medle cell lymphoma. Ibrutinib was the first of these drugs to receive FDA approval in 2013.
A few years ago, researchers at Northwestern University began studying the potential of BTK inhibitors to prevent allergic reactions. Because the new cancer drug shuts down a cellular process that is also thought to be involved in anaphylactic shock, it also seems to prevent acute allergic reactions.
“I’ve heard some parents say, ‘It’s better if i can get my kids to eat something while we’re on vacation in case they accidentally eat the wrong food,'” said Bruce Bochner, senior author of the new study.
Early studies of drug use in cancer patients did show impressive reductions in allergic reactions. Within a week of starting BTK inhibitor treatment, some patients decreased by up to 90% on their specific allergens. Another small study in healthy subjects with allergies showed that the drug was effective in preventing systemic anaphylactic shock when exposed to known allergens. Again, this is a small study, but it is incredibly promising because there are no known drugs to prevent anaphylactic shock.
The new study brings the team back to the lab for robust animal trials aimed at better understanding the drug’s mechanisms to prevent anaphylactic shock. Scientists have designed a new mouse model that contains implanted human cells. The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, provide a detailed picture of how only two oral doses of BTK inhibitors can prevent both anaphylactic shock and significantly prevent death when inducing severe anaphylactic shock in the face of moderate allergen exposure.
Much more needs to be done before some kind of allergy prevention pill becomes a reality. For example, BTK inhibitors may have been approved by the FDA for certain purposes, but they have not been approved for any purpose in children. These drugs are also prohibitively expensive at the moment.
But, as Bochner points out, the potential use of pills to prevent anaphylactic shock can change many people’s lives. Not only as a pre-meal pill to help prevent acute allergic reactions, but as a way to provide antibiotic treatment to people who were previously unable to take these life-saving drugs.
“This pill is likely to change lives and save lives. Bochner said. “Imagine being able to take the drug to prevent severe allergic reactions in the future. “