Dr Manuel Ferreira from QIMR Berghofer said it is the first time that patients have had their asthma induced in Australia to identify new treatments.
“The trial is testing whether a drug that inhibits the immune system’s response to the protein IL-6 could be useful in treating asthma,” Dr Ferreira said.
If selected for the trial, volunteers are either administered a drug that inhibits the IL-6 receptor or a placebo medication.
Volunteers then inhale a safe dose of an allergen such as dust mites to trigger a mild episode of their asthma, and the episode and their recovery will be monitored.
“This approach is extremely safe, and allows us to test in a matter of days – instead of months – whether the drug reduces the severity or duration of asthma,” Dr Ferreira said.
The drug being tested was found to prevent or reduce asthma in pre-clinical trials conducted by QIMR Berghofer and the University of Queensland in 2014.
Dr Ferreira said patients will be closely monitored during testing at the Princess Alexandra Hospital to ensure their safety.
The drug being used – tocilizumab (TCZ) – is already registered to treat rheumatoid arthritis and suppresses the immune system’s response to the IL-6 protein.
“If we can show that inhibiting IL-6 is effective against asthma we can give patients real hope that better treatments are on the way,” Dr Ferreira said.
“Adults who currently have mild asthma, or suffered from the condition when younger, may be eligible to participate if they only require asthma relievers such as Ventolin to manage their asthma.”
Volunteers will participate in 10 visits across six weeks over the course of the trial, with results expected in 2016.
Researchers expect to screen approximately 40 volunteers to find 16 patients suitable for the trial.
Participants will be financially reimbursed for their time, and anyone interested should call 1800 257 179 or email QIMR.Asthma@qimrberghofer.edu.au for more information.
This research has been funded by a Queensland Government’s Smart Future Fellowship and QIMR Berghofer.
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