Monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of refractory asthma

Nathan Hambly, Parameswaran Nair
Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine 2014, 20 (1): 87-94

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: A small proportion of patients with asthma have severe disease characterized by persistent airflow obstruction, airway hyperresponsiveness and eosinophilic airway inflammation. This review focuses on the clinical efficacy of inhibiting T helper 2-cytokine-mediated inflammatory responses using monoclonal antibodies directed against immunoglobulin E (IgE), interleukin (IL)-5, and IL-4/IL-13 in patients with severe refractory asthma.

RECENT FINDINGS: The heterogeneity of airway inflammation in severe asthma has led to the recognition of multiple pathophysiologically distinct severe asthma endotypes. Biomarkers are being developed and evaluated to identify these endotypes and to guide the use of specific biologics in the appropriate patients who remain uncontrolled on high doses of inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting bronchodilators or oral corticosteroids. Examples include the efficacy of omalizumab in patients with severe refractory atopic asthma characterized by raised serum total IgE, mepolizumab, reslizumab, and benralizumab in patients with recurrent eosinophilic exacerbations characterized by blood and sputum eosinophilia despite high doses of corticosteroids, and lebrikizumab, pitrakinra, dupilumab, and tralokinumab that target the IL-4/IL-13 signalling pathways in patients with eosinophilic asthma or raised serum periostin.

SUMMARY: In severe refractory asthma, both an understanding of the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms driving airway inflammation and the identification of appropriate biomarkers in individual patients are critical in guiding the use of biologics and monoclonal antibodies that target the specific pathological processes.

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