A fully human monoclonal antibody called dupilumab, being developed by Regeneron and Sanofi, thwarts activation of the Th2 immune response implicated in asthma by blocking two cytokines, interleukin-4 and interleukin-13, according to research published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the research, patients with persistent, moderate-to-severe asthma who received weekly injections of dupilumab experienced an 87% reduction in protocol-defined asthma exacerbations, compared with those who received a placebo.

Significant improvements were also reported for other relevant asthma outcomes such as lung function as assessed by FEV1 and morning peak expiratory flow, asthma symptoms and control, as well as asthma reliever medication use. Many of these improvements were seen when dupilumab was added to ICS/LABA, with efficacy maintained despite background therapy withdrawal.

“Intriguingly, dupilumab showed substantial efficacy in objective and patient-reported endpoints when added to ICS and LABA and when those therapies were discontinued,” said lead author Sally Wenzel, MD, director of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute.

Wenzel noted that the combination of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and long-acting beta agonists (LABA), does not work sufficiently in 10-20% percent of asthma patients in the United States.