New Hope for Severe Asthma Sufferers – An Antiflammatory Protein


Targeting inflammatory proteins could help treat severe asthma.

Just weeks after news of a sharp national spike in asthma deaths – with South Australia recording the highest increase in a single year (88%) – scientists have revealed a promising new treatment for the chronic lung disease.

Australian researchers have found that a family of proinflammatory molecules called beta-common cytokines control inflammation and scarring of the airways (fibrosis) in severe and steroid-resistant asthma.

They believe that a human therapeutic antibody called trabikihart could be the key to effectively blocking inflammation and scarring.

The findings, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, are a result of a joint study led by researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), in collaboration with researchers from CSL and SA Pathology.

Joint study leader Dr Damon Tumes, Head of the Allergy and Cancer Immunology Laboratory in the Centre for Cancer Biology*, says the findings are significant.

“Inflammation and tissue damage in severe asthma is caused by several types of immune cells that enter the lungs due to allergens, viruses and other microbes that interact with the airways,” Dr Tumes says.

“In some people, the inflammation is resistant to steroids – the first treatment option for controlling severe asthma.

asthma sufferer

“Currently, limited treatment options are available for severe asthma. New and existing drugs often only target single molecules when multiple overlapping cells and inflammatory pathways are responsible for asthma.

“Targeting multiple inflammatory cytokines with a single drug may be the key to treat and control complex and severe chronic airway disease.”

The most recent statistics show a 30% rise in asthma-related deaths (467 people) nationally in 2022. South Australia recorded the most drastic increase at 88%.

According to experts, most of the deaths were preventable and were linked to people not having treatment on hand, or using it as prescribed, especially inhaled corticosteroids.

2022 marked the highest number of asthma deaths since 2017. This was partly driven by the post-Covid return of viral respiratory infections which are associated with increases in asthma hospitalisations.

Widespread rainfall, triggering an increase in fungal spores and pollen is also a factor.

“Dual inhibition of airway inflammation and fibrosis by commonβcytokine receptor blockade” is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2023.10.021

*The Centre for Cancer Biology is an alliance between the University of South Australia (UniSA) and CAHLN/SA Pathology.

Research  South Australian University

Head of Research Team: Dr Damon Tumes

Dr Damon Tumes is the head of the Allergy and Cancer Immunology laboratory in the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB), a joint venture between UniSA and SA Pathology.

His main research interests are lymphocyte differentiation and immunological memory in the context of chronic allergic inflammation.  Read more


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