A clinical trial, PollenLITE, has been launched at King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ to test a new vaccine for hayfever that could be more effective, less invasive for patients and less expensive than vaccines already available to patients through the NHS.
A study by scientists at King’s and Imperial College London showed a significant reduction in skin sensitivity to grass pollen that was associated with an increase in ‘blocking antibodies’ in the bloodstream. The results are so encouraging that King’s has launched a clinical trial in collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’, working together as part of King’s Health Partners to further investigate the vaccine as a potential new hayfever treatment.
The PollenLITE trial is funded by the Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research, via the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme, and will take place at our Clinical Research Facility.
The researchers say the approach defines a completely new concept in treating allergies and in the future could have an impact on treating other conditions such as asthma and food allergies.
Hayfever and current treatments
Hayfever affects one in four people in the UK. An allergic reaction to grass pollen triggers a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes and in some cases asthma symptoms. For many individuals this can interfere with work or school performance, sleep and social activities. Tablets and sprays may temporarily relieve symptoms, but for severe cases one option is a vaccine to ‘switch off’ the allergy, called immunotherapy.
The vaccines currently used involve high doses of allergen given by injection underneath the skin (subcutaneously) or sometimes as a daily tablet or drops under the tongue. In most cases this involves large numbers of injections in an NHS allergy clinic or daily tablets/drops taken continuously, which can be inconvenient for patients and expensive for the NHS.
Published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, this study shows that a series of low dose allergen injections (less than a 1000th of the usual dose) into a higher layer of the skin (intradermally), rather than subcutaneously, led to a 90% reduction in skin reactivity to grass pollen. During the study none of the participants reported unwanted side-effects and the injections did not trigger hayfever symptoms.
The researchers believe that the method of injecting the vaccine intradermally is a major factor in its success, as the skin is a highly active immunological area – more so than underneath the skin where allergy vaccines are traditionally administered.
Dr Stephen Till, Senior Lecturer at King’s College London said: ‘The results of our study are hugely exciting. We now want to find out if this process can also switch off grass allergy in the nose and improve hayfever symptoms, so we have launched the PollenLITE clinical trial to further test our new approach.’
PollenLITE Clinical trial
King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’, have launched the PollenLITE (Pollen Low dose intradermal Therapy Evaluation) trial to test this new vaccine.
The trial is a collaboration with Imperial College London, which together with King’s College London forms the basis of the MRC and Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma.
The PollenLITE team is looking for 90 hayfever sufferers to take part. Volunteers will receive either seven injections of small quantities of grass pollen into the dermis, or a placebo (dummy) injection in early 2013. In the summer of 2013 study participants will record their symptoms daily and scores will later be compared in the two groups. Small samples of skin and blood at the beginning and end of the study will be taken for experiments into how this new treatment works.
Dr Till concluded: “Hayfever is one of the most common diseases in the UK and can have a serious impact on people’s everyday lives. PollenLITE is a major trial that has the potential to identify a new treatment that is more effective, convenient and cheaper for the NHS than the current alternative. Crucially, if this approach proves to be effective it would define a new scientific and clinical principle that could also be applied to other allergic diseases such as asthma and food allergies. This could be a pivotal study in immunological research.”
The trial is now recruiting and people who experience summer hayfever (during May, June and July), are welcome to apply.
Posted on Monday 17th September 2012