Asthma drug trial yields impressive results
Research carried out at Leicester has identified the first new treatment for severe asthma for 15 years. The results of Phase II trials of Mepolizumab are published this week in The Lancet and Professor Ian Pavord from our Institute of Lung Health is lead author on the study.
Asthma is a condition with many causes, one of which is an over-abundance of an important type of white blood cell called eosinophils. Patients with eosinophilic asthma suffer frequent attacks (‘exacerbations’, to use the clinical term) but ‘Mepo’ can reduce these by targeting interleukin-5, a monoclonal antibody which is part of a cell signalling pathway in the immune system.
In the new trial, three experimental groups were given doses of 75mg, 250mg or 750mg of Mepolizumab and all showed a significant reduction in exacerbations (49%, 39%, 52% respectively) compared with the control group who received placebo. Exacerbations were counted if they were serious enough to require a hospital visit or a dose of corticosteroids.
In total, 621 patients, aged 12-74, took part in the study at 81 centres in 13 countries, randomly assigned to one of the four groups. The trial was double-blind, meaning that neither patients nor doctors knew who was in which group until the results were collected.
Patients on the Mepo trial, which was funded by GlaxoSmithKline did not show consistent improvements in their overall condition. Nevertheless, halving the number of severe attacks is a major step forward and should make life easier for eosinophilic asthma sufferers when the drug is eventually approved, especially as there are no reported side effects.
Professor Pavord, who is based in Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, is part of the Respiratory Science research theme within our College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology. On this study, he collaborated with colleagues in Germany, France, the USA and Southampton.