Therapeutic interventions in severe asthma

Giorgio Walter Canonica, Gianenrico Senna, Patrick Mitchell, Paul O'Byrne, Giovanni Passalacqua, Gilda Varricchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present paper addresses severe asthma which is limited to 5-10% of the overall population of asthmatics. However, it accounts for 50% or more of socials costs of the disease, as it is responsible for hospitalizations and Emergency Department accesses as well as expensive treatments. The recent identification of different endotypes of asthma, based on the inflammatory pattern, has led to the development of tailored treatments that target different inflammatory mediators. These are major achievements in the perspective of Precision Medicine: a leading approach to the modern treatment strategy. Omalizumab, an anti-IgE antibody, has been the only biologic treatment available on the market for severe asthma during the last decade. It prevents the linkage of the IgE and the receptors, thereby inhibiting mast cell degranulation. In clinical practice omalizumab significantly reduced the asthma exacerbations as well as the concomitant use of oral glucocorticoids. In the "Th2-high asthma" phenotype, the hallmarks are increased levels of eosinophils and other markers (such as periostin). Because anti-IL-5 in this condition plays a crucial role in driving eosinophil inflammation, this cytokine or its receptors on the eosinophil surface has been studied as a potential target for therapy. Two different anti-IL-5 humanized monoclonal antibodies, mepolizumab and reslizumab, have been proven effective in this phenotype of asthma (recently they both came on the market in the United States), as well as an anti-IL-5 receptor alpha (IL5Rα), benralizumab. Other monoclonal antibodies, targeting different cytokines (IL-13, IL-4, IL-17 and TSLP) are still under evaluation, though the preliminary results are encouraging. Finally, AIT, Allergen Immunotherapy, a prototype of Precision Medicine, is considered, also in light of the recent evidences of Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) tablet efficacy and safety in mite allergic asthma patients. Given the high costs of these therapies, however, there is an urgent need to identify biomarkers that can predict the clinical responders.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberPMID: 2794235
Pages (from-to)40
JournalThe World Allergy Organization journal
Issue number1
Early online date28 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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