A game-changer for asthma treatment

A game-changer for asthma treatment

Illuminate newsletter index page, June 2019
June 2019


The study was led by (L-R) Dr Christine Keenan, Professor
Stephen Nutt and Dr Rhys Allan.

Researchers have discovered a potential new treatment for asthma that works by targeting the cause of the disease, rather than just masking the symptoms.

The preclinical study identified that a drug currently in clinical trials for cancer was able to ‘switch off’ and reverse the uncontrolled inflammation responsible for driving and exacerbating asthma.

Dr Christine Keenan said the findings could lead to a dramatic improvement for the future of asthma treatment.

“I have been researching asthma in the preclinical setting for a long time and have never seen a treatment wipe out signs of an allergic immune response like this before,” Dr Keenan said.

No current cure

Asthma is a long-term lung condition that currently has no cure. One in nine people in Australia have asthma and Melbourne has one of the highest incidences of the disease in the world.

Current medicines are falling short as they only serve to ease the symptoms, can have unwantedside-effects, or can be very expensive.

Reversing inflammation

The uncontrolled inflammation associated withallergic asthma restricts airways, increases mucus and makes it hard to breathe.

Study co-lead Dr Rhys Allan said the researchers set out to target and arrest the causeof the inflammation.

“Our early research identified that the enzyme Ezh2 was critical to the immune system’s ability to drive inflammation in response to allergens."

"This indicated an Ezh2 inhibitor drug could effectively suppress inflammation in anallergic response,” he said.

Through a series of laboratory studies the researchers showed that the inhibition of Ezh2 could dampen the overreaction by immune Tcells that lead to uncontrolled inflammation in the lungs, as well as reverse any established inflammation associated with asthma.

“Interestingly, the Ezh2 inhibitor used in our study is currently well tolerated in clinical trials for blood cancer,” Dr Allan said. “We hope that this study illuminates the way forward for further investigation into a highly targeted and effective medicine for asthma.”

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Dr Rhys Allan standing in a corridor

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