"We see it as a treatment for problem patients, those not able to control the condition by steroid therapy," Longphre said. "Most doctors have at least one such patient in their practice."
The findings drew a mixed response from asthma experts.
Dr. Harold Nelson, a professor of medicine at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, was downbeat, primarily because of his experience with an IL-4 blocker several years ago.
"A first study was fairly encouraging," Nelson said. "A second study was positive. A third study was an utter failure, and we dropped the drug."
And Nelson was not impressed by the nature of the Lancet studies. "These were allergen-challenge studies," he said. "An allergen-challenge study is not asthma. A positive response in an allergen-challenge study is not a positive response in asthma."
However, Dr. Marc E. Rothenberg, director of the division of allergy and immunology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, had a markedly different reaction.
"The idea that a drug can block this pathway and block the asthmatic reaction is very exciting," Rothenberg said.
While the two trials were small, "they were not insignificant," he added. "Such a dramatic effect with a small sample size indicates that the effect will not be trivial."
The new drug is a result of two decades of research, and "key targets have been identified through this molecular research," Rothenberg said.
Drug companies now are testing a number of drugs aimed at blocking cytokine activity in asthma, he added.
For more on asthma and its treatment, consult the National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Malinda Longphre,
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