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Experimental Drug Promising Against Tough-to-Treat Asthma
Date:8/3/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A new experimental drug for adults with asthma seems to improve lung function in patients who haven't been helped with standard steroids.

The drug, lebrikizumab, targets a specific receptor involved in asthma, and appears to be the first drug to be successful in this particular approach, said Dr. Steve Georas, a professor of medicine in the pulmonary and critical care division at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

It is also perhaps the first drug to have this specific effect in asthmatics, and may lead to more gains in individualized treatments for patients.

"Personalized medicine hasn't made huge strides in asthma," said Georas. "We're all hopeful we're on the verge of a new era in that regard. This appears to be a first tentative step in that direction."

Georas was not involved with the new research, which appears in the Aug. 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and was funded by Genentech, which makes lebrikizumab.

Lebrikizumab is a monoclonal antibody that binds to interleukin-13 (IL-13), a signaling molecule involved in the inflammatory responses associated with asthma.

Although glucocorticoids also inhibit IL-13, the molecule manages to exert its influence in other ways which, so far, have eluded current medications. But, lebrikizumab works in a different way than traditional steroids.

The authors randomized 219 adults who had not responded to standard treatments to receive either lebrikizumab or a placebo.

After three months, the overall group of patients taking lebrikizumab saw a 5.5 percent improvement in their FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in one second), which measures how much a person expels when exhaling, compared to the placebo group.

Patients who had high IL-13 levels (as measured by the protein periostin, which is produced by IL-13) saw an FEV1 improvement o
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