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Monday, April 30, 2012

Three injections and counting...

Senti et al. have “injected” new hope into allergy immunotherapy (IT) with this month's report of the results of their research into intralymphatic administration of cat dander allergen for treatment of cat allergy (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2012;129:1290-1296). 

Conventional IT has a low appeal for most allergy sufferers because of the lengthy time requirement to achieve desensitization/tolerance. This is true for subcutaneous as well as sublingual IT. Although this treatment duration can be shortened by higher doses of allergen per treatment, the authors point out that this significantly increases risk of systemic reaction.

Senti et al. generated a unique delivery platform for the cat allergen, Fel d 1, using an HIV-derived translocation peptide combined with part of a human invariant chain that permitted targeting of the vaccine to the MHC class II pathway, avoiding phagocytosis and subsequent degradation. They report that the modular vehicle, MAT-Fel d 1, induced less in vitro degranulation of basophils and of mast cells in skin tests, suggesting that the vaccine may be safer than administration of unmodified allergen.

Subjects in the study received three inguinal intralymphatic injections of sequentially increased doses of MAT-Fel d 1 or placebo under ultrasound guidance. Subjects received injections once every 4 weeks. At 5 weeks after the 3rd injection, subjects in the treatment group had 5-fold increased levels of IgG4 compared to controls. This was positively correlated to increased titers of IL-10. The authors report nasal tolerance increased in the treatment group by a factor of 74 compared to the control group. Senti et al. also report increased tolerance of skin prick testing and intradermal testing.  At day 300 follow up, the treatment group reported continued nasal and ocular tolerance.

In conclusion, Senti et al. emphasize the rapid achievement of increased tolerance with a greater safety profile of their modular vaccine, MAT-Fel d 1. They note the need for larger studies permitting increased statistical power as well as efficacy assessment by symptom and medication reduction. 

[Update 5/2/12] We asked Dr. Senti and senior author Thomas Kündig to comment on the next steps in their research. They note, "[We] are currently planning a dose escalation and phase IIb study for further clinical development. Also, MAT molecules containing major bee venom allergen Api m 1, and dust mite allergens and birch allergens have been generated and work well in mice."

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