Targeting Asthma

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Science  07 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6052, pp. 19
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6052.19-c

Asthma is a major public health problem. There are a variety of causes of asthma, and the pathogenesis of the disease is quite heterogeneous. Despite this, most patients are treated with broadly immunosuppressive glucocorticoids, which do not always control disease. Thus, there is substantial interest in developing more targeted therapies that may be used to treat specific clinical subtypes of patients.

Interleukin-13 (IL-13) is a cytokine that is associated with the T helper 2 type responses seen in many asthma patients and in a subset of patients remains elevated even in the face of glucocorticoid treatment. In a placebo-controlled phase II clinical trial, Corren et al. now show that treatment of adult asthma patients on glucocorticoid therapy with a monoclonal antibody against IL-13 significantly improved lung function. Patients with higher IL-13 levels showed the greatest effect. Although the trend toward reduced disease exacerbations in treated patients did not reach statistical significance, this study does suggest that a targeted approach to asthma therapy is worth pursuing.

N. Engl. J. Med. 365, 1088 (2011).

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