Saturday, March 30, 2013

Recent Food Allergy Research

Have you been following all of the of news coverage on immunotherapy research lately? Like most things related to food allergies, there seem to be some opposing views on this potential new treatment.

In case you missed it, The New York Times, Today Show, and Katie Couric recently featured a new approach for children with serious allergies to several different foods. The clinical trial, led by Dr. Kari Nadeau at Stanford, involves desensitizing patients to up to five different allergens by very slowly increasing their intake over time. Several children with severely allergic food allergies are experiencing great results and seem overjoyed with the success of the research.

On the flip side, other doctors such as Wayne Shreffler M.D. of Harvard Medical School have posted cautionary commentary on the risks of this type of study, citing that more research is needed to disprove this treatment will actually do more harm than good in the long run.
Supporting this concern is a report recently shared at the AAAAI annual conference highlighting another immunotherapy study with very different outcomes. The March issue of Allergic Living magazine summarizes disappointing findings of researchers investigating oral immunotherapy in milk-allergic patients. Results showed that for a majority of patients, desensitization wasn’t holding up. In fact, three to five years after completing an OIT study, Johns Hopkins University researchers said that many participants were more reactive to cow’s milk than they had been early in the course of treatment.

So what’s a food allergy parent to think? I’m personally thrilled research is being done on this topic. I’m even more thrilled it is helping some of the families willing to sacrifice their time and safety to partake in the study. (The New York Times article mentions some risky scenarios where epinephrine was needed. Yikes.)

Given that risk factor, - for me - I can’t say this is a treatment I would feel comfortable with for my child. I personally took immunotherapy shots for my seasonal allergies for years with absolutely no positive results. Then again, many other patients did. It’s hard to look at the smiles of 10-year-old Tessa Grosso after her recent treatment and argue that it hasn’t changed her life for the better …. immensely better.

So there you have it. Medical research is just another example of how food allergies continue to be a personal journey that is different for every individual.  Even so, I believe our common and collective goal will help us find the answer in my 9 year-old daughter’s lifetime. Until then, my heartfelt gratitude goes out to the many researchers and families who are working hard every day to help find a cure!

(See my earlier blog post on FAFH-2...another food allergy research study I learned about a few years ago that I hope is still progressing!)

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