Photo: Diane Cusack
The world’s largest peanut allergy treatment trial, involving more than 30 Irish children, has found that a new oral treatment can successfully reduce sensitivity to peanuts, and offers a real lifeline to those affected by the most common food allergy and the single cause of most food allergy deaths.
Through his work as Principal Investigator at the INFANT Centre, Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at University College Cork, Professor Jonathan Hourihane has been leading the revolutionary immunotherapy trial in Ireland, which has shown that more than two thirds (67%) of those on the treatment could tolerate peanuts after the trial. This tolerance gives peanut allergy sufferers real safety, and the ability to cope with accidental exposure in the community.
“Up to now, without any treatment available, peanut allergy has put children and adults at risk of unpredictable and occasionally life-threatening reactions. The AR101 immunotherapy is a real breakthrough for those affected by peanut allergy. It works by introducing initially minute controlled amounts of peanut protein, with escalation over a sustained period of six to 12 months, building up a patient’s tolerance to peanut. We have seen patients go from being highly allergic to very small doses, like one-tenth of a peanut, to being able to manage to eat the equivalent of two or three peanuts without a significant reaction. This is a game changer for anyone living with this allergy,” said Prof Hourihane of the INFANT Centre.
This industry-sponsored research and clinical trial has resulted in the publication of Prof Hourihane’s co-authored paper in the world’s leading medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine this week.
INFANT Director Geraldine Boylan said: “This is an example of the excellent, world-leading clinical research ongoing at the INFANT Centre at UCC, which is making a huge difference to lives of children and their families, not just in Ireland but all over the world. We are delighted to be a significant player in bringing this new therapy to fruition and acknowledge the incredible work of our INFANT allergy research team, and particularly the incredible work of our colleague, Prof Jonathan Hourihane.”
UCC President Patrick O’Shea said: “We applaud the development of a new immunotherapy for peanut allergy by Professor Jonathan Hourihane. This research has the potential to have a positive effect on patients globally and is a wonderful example of the hugely relevant research being carried out at the INFANT research centre. University College Cork’s College of Medicine and Health (CoMH) is committed to the development of excellent and impactful clinical research and, in that regard, INFANT is of strategic importance to the CoMHand to UCC.”
The AR101 trial has been ongoing around the world for almost two years in total. The double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge saw participants go from allergic reactions, such as immediate vomiting, swelling of the throat, blisters on tongue, stomach pain and other signs of hypersensitivity, after exposure to 1mg of peanut protein, to being able to safely ingest up to 600mg of peanut protein. The AR101 treatment has been developed for daily dosing, so that patients continue to take the oral immunotherapy on an ongoing basis to remain desensitised to peanuts.
The AR101 immunotherapy will be submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a Biologics Liencse Application by the end of 2018, and is expected to be fast-tracked on the FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation for peanut allergic patients from ages four to 17 years. Assuming FDA approval, and subsequent approval by the European Medicines Agency in 2019, AR101 could be available to patients around the world by late 2019.