Mechanistic correlates of clinical responses to omalizumab in the setting of oral immunotherapy for milk allergy

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Background:In our recent clinical trial, the addition of omalizumab to oral immunotherapy (OIT) for milk allergy improved safety, but no significant clinical benefit was detected.Objective:We sought to investigate mechanisms by which omalizumab modulates immunity in the context of OIT and to identify baseline biomarkers that predict subgroups of patients most likely to benefit from omalizumab.Methods:Blood was obtained at baseline and multiple time points during a placebo-controlled trial of OIT for milk allergy in which subjects were randomized to receive omalizumab or placebo. Immunologic outcomes included measurement of basophil CD63 expression and histamine release and casein-specific CD4+ regulatory T-cell proliferation. Biomarkers were analyzed in relationship to measurements of safety and efficacy.Results:Milk-induced basophil CD63 expression was transiently reduced in whole blood samples from both omalizumab- and placebo-treated subjects. However, IgE-dependent histamine release increased in washed cell preparations from omalizumab- but not placebo-treated subjects. No increase in regulatory T-cell frequency was evident in either group. Subjects with lower rates of adverse reactions, regardless of arm, experienced better clinical outcomes. Pre-OIT basophil reactivity positively associated with occurrence of symptoms during OIT, whereas the baseline milk IgE/total IgE ratio correlated with the likelihood of achieving sustained unresponsiveness. A combination of baseline basophil and serologic biomarkers defined a subset of patients in which adjunctive therapy with omalizumab was associated with attainment of sustained unresponsiveness and a reduction in adverse reactions.Conclusions:Combining omalizumab therapy with milk OIT led to distinct alterations in basophil reactivity but not T-cell responses. Baseline biomarkers can identify subjects most likely to benefit from adjunctive therapy with omalizumab.

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