According to a small-scale clinical trial reported by US News & World Report, leukemia drug Gleevec (imatinib) might also effectively treat severe asthma.

Gleevec reduced the “twitchiness” of airways, making them less likely to reflexively constrict when exposed to an allergen or asthma trigger, said senior researcher Dr Elliot Israel.

Gleevec fights leukemia by blocking a specific receptor on cancerous white blood cells, inhibiting their ability to multiply and spread, Israel said.

That same action also affects mast cells, a type of white blood cell distributed throughout the body that promotes inflammation and causes allergic reactions, Israel said.