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Anti-TSLP Antibody Shows Promise as Potential New Asthma Treatment

By Laura K. Fogli

Over 20 million Americans suffer from asthma, a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lungs. Asthma causes airway constriction, resulting in episodes of wheezing and shortness of breath.   For the majority of patients with asthma, the condition occurs in response to an allergen – a particle inhaled from the environment to which the body mounts an immune response. While allergic asthma can often be controlled with inhaled steroids and other medications, there are some patients that struggle to manage their condition. As more is being learned about the mechanisms that drive allergic responses in the airway, new potential targets for therapy are being discovered.


One such target is TSLP, a cytokine produced by cells that line the airways. Cytokines are signaling molecules that cells secrete in order to communicate with other cells in the body. In response to cytokines, cells may start to divide, migrate, or secrete other inflammatory factors. TSLP acts on several different types of immune cells, turning on mechanisms that drive allergic inflammation in the lungs. It has been shown that patients with asthma have increased levels of TSLP in their airways1. The authors of a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine tested whether blocking the activity of this cytokine could reduce the severity of allergic asthma2.


To block TSLP, the authors used an antibody, which binds to TSLP and prevents it from interacting with its receptor on immune cells. 31 adult patients, all of whom had been diagnosed with mild allergic asthma and were not currently being treated with other asthma medications, were enrolled in the study. Half were randomly assigned to the treatment group and received the anti-TSLP antibody, and half were assigned to the placebo group and received a mock treatment instead of the antibody. The trial was double-blind, meaning that both the patients and the clinicians were unaware of which patients were in which group. Patients were given the antibody or placebo through three 1-hour intravenous infusion treatments over an 8-week period.


Patients that were treated with the antibody exhibited an improvement in airway constriction when challenged with allergens that were known to trigger their asthma. They also showed a reduction in other measures of airway inflammation. These results indicate that TSLP is indeed a potential target for treating allergic asthma.


What does this mean for you?

This was a small proof-of-concept study, intended only to demonstrate that TSLP plays a key role in allergic asthma. Larger clinical trials are needed to demonstrate statistically significant improvements in patients treated with the anti-TSLP antibody before this treatment can be made available. But research like this is what makes new, more effective asthma medications possible. If you have asthma and are struggling to control your symptoms, talk to your doctor about the latest treatment options.




  1. Ying S, O’Connor B, Ratoff J, et al. Thymic stromal lymphopoietin expression is increased in asthmatic airways and correlates with expression of Th2-attracting chemokines and disease severity. J Immunol. 2005;174(12):8183-8190.
  2. Gauvreau GM, O’Byrne PM, Boulet LP, et al. Effects of an anti-TSLP antibody on allergen-induced asthmatic responses. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(22):2102-2110.