MAY 18, 2017 2:22 PM PDT

Treating A Rare Immunological Disease with Mepolizumab

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

There's a new standard treatment for a rare immunological disease: mepolizumab. No need for an approval process, though - the drug is already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat another disease.

Micrograph showing high power view of Eosinophils. Credit: Department of Pathology, Calicut Medical College

The identification of a new treatment is promising news for people with the rare disease, called eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA). Previously known as Churg-Strauss Syndrome, EGPA is characterized by excessive proliferation of eosinophils, a type of proinflammatory white blood cell involved in multiple immune processes, including allergic reactions. As the eosinophil population grows, cells start to collect in the blood vessel walls, meanwhile releasing toxic, inflammatory proteins that damage tissues around them.

An individual developing EGPA will first experience only severe asthma, but as time goes by, more blood flow is restricted, and more tissues are damaged, multi-organ damage will occur. Prior to mepolizumab, the only standard treatments for EGPA were oral steroids, taken regularly, and occasionally immunosuppressants. However, both options are accompanied by adverse side effects, relapses are common, and treatment doesn’t always work for some EGPA patients.

Mepolizumab was originally approved by the FDA to treat serious cases of eosinophilic asthma; the drug is a humanized monoclonal antibody of immunoglobulin G, and it targets an immune chemical called interleukin-5 to treat asthma.

The new phase 3 Clinical Trial, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, examined the improvements made in patients when mepolizumab is added to steroid treatments for EGPA. Researchers conducted a double-blind experiment of 136 EGPA participants, where half of the study’s participants received mepolizumab and half received a placebo. All of the study’s participants either did not respond at all to steroids or relapsed after taking oral steroids.

Regardless of whether or not they also took immunosuppressants, nearly one-third of people receiving mepolizumab remained in remission for at least 24 weeks, but only three percent of the placebo participants remained in remission for that long.

The next step for getting mepolizumab into the hands of people struggling with EGPA: What biological markers can distinguish between people who would benefit from mepolizumab and those who would not?

The present study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Sources: NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Expert Review of Clinical Immunology, Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 21, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
The Hormones We Have at Birth Are Linked to Disease Throughout Life
SEP 21, 2020
The Hormones We Have at Birth Are Linked to Disease Throughout Life
New work may help explain why some autoimmune or immune-related diseases are more common in women, who are more likely t ...
OCT 14, 2020
Immunology
Happiness Linked to Heart Attack Risk
OCT 14, 2020
Happiness Linked to Heart Attack Risk
Asking patients questions about their personal lives could predict their future risk of a heart attack. A study, publish ...
OCT 12, 2020
Microbiology
Researchers May Have Found a Way to Cure Rotavirus Infections
OCT 12, 2020
Researchers May Have Found a Way to Cure Rotavirus Infections
Rotaviruses are very contagious. They are the most common cause of diarrhea in children and are estimated to cause about ...
OCT 24, 2020
Immunology
New CRISPR-Based Imaging Tool Is Going to Be HiUGE
OCT 24, 2020
New CRISPR-Based Imaging Tool Is Going to Be HiUGE
A team of researchers at Duke University have developed an imaging technology for tagging structures at a cellular level ...
NOV 20, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Cat Parasite Gives Clues on New Drug Targets for Schizophrenia
NOV 20, 2020
Cat Parasite Gives Clues on New Drug Targets for Schizophrenia
Researchers from the UK and France have discussed a mechanism of action behind the infamous Toxoplasma gondii  ...
DEC 29, 2020
Immunology
Cancer-Killing Viruses Enter in Stealth Mode, Penetrate Immune Barrier
DEC 29, 2020
Cancer-Killing Viruses Enter in Stealth Mode, Penetrate Immune Barrier
Viruses that when administered to patients preferentially attack and kill cancer cells, leaving normal tissues unscathed ...
Loading Comments...