The Phase I trial of a world-first peanut allergy immunotherapy has shown positive results, researchers have revealed.
The therapy, which is being developed by Australian biotechnology company Aravax, is underpinned by more than 15 years of research led by respiratory physician Professor Robyn O’Hehir and her team at The Alfred and Monash University.
The treatment works by resetting the immune system so that patients can tolerate exposure to peanuts without an allergic reactions. As part of the trial, peanut-allergic people are gradually exposed to increasing doses of small fragments of peanut protein (peptides), which researchers hope will reprogram specific white blood cells without triggering anaphylaxis.
The Phase I trial, carried out over the last 18 months, has tested the safety and tolerability of this therapy for patients. Researchers will proceed this year with Phase II of the trial, which will begin to test the efficacy of the therapy.
Professor O'Hehir, who is chief medical advisor to Aravax, said these results were exciting.
“Although early-stage, these results suggest that a peptide-based approach to peanut allergy immunotherapy could offer significant safety advantages over other approaches in later stages of development,” Professor O’Hehir said.
“This is a significant breakthrough in the search for a safe therapy for peanut allergy, and builds on prior work showing that this treatment targets the peanut-specific T-cells that are believed to be the underlying cause of disease.”
Associate Professor Mark Hew, Head of Allergy, Asthma & Clinincal Immunology at The Alfred, said this therapy - if proven - could signficantly improve the lives of patients.
"Peanut allergy is life-threatening, around 10 people die of anaphylaxis in Australia each year," A/Prof Hew said.
"To be able to consume peanuts and not risk an allergic reaction would be life-changing for these people."
Aleisha Symon has suffered a life-long allergy to peanuts and took part in the trial.
"I have to be really careful with what I eat - I can tell as soon as I eat something with peanut in it because my mouth starts to tingle and I go into anaphylaxis," Aleisha said.
"This treatment would be amazing. It would take away so much stress worrying about whether I'm going to be exposed to peanuts when I'm eating out or travelling."
Aravax’s Phase I results, “Safety and Tolerability of a Novel Peptide-Based Immunotherapy for Peanut Allergy”, were presented at the AAAAI Annual Conference this week.