Asthma breakthrough? ‘Blockbuster’ Gleevec cancer drug shows promise in treating severe cases

| | May 24, 2017
Could Cancer Drug Gleevec Help With Severe Asthma
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

A blockbuster cancer drug may have a surprising new use: It’s showing real promise in treating severe asthma. That may help researchers better understand the basic biology of the chronic condition — and develop new medications, according to a small proof-of-principle study published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The trial studied imatinib, known commonly under the brand name Gleevec, in 62 patients with severe and difficult-to-treat asthma. Imatinib is a chemotherapy used to treat leukemia and other cancers.

Imatinib has been found, in mice, to inhibit the growth of mast cells, which are a type of white blood cell that are found in the airways of severe asthmatics. It’s long been hypothesized that mast cells may play a role in asthma — causing airways to secrete mucus, for instance, and causing them to be hyper-reactive, or “twitchy,” in response to allergens or pollutants, said lead investigator Dr. Elliot Israel, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The study backs up that hypothesis.

Mast cells have been implicated in many allergic reactions — but as far as most scientists can tell, they’re vestigial and fairly useless in terms of helping buoy a person’s immunity.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Blockbuster cancer drug shows surprising promise in treating severe asthma

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