Launch of the SYS-T-Act study: towards a personalised treatment of allergies
The allergy burden continues to grow worldwide. To counter the excessive reactions of the immune system, immunotherapy can be used to "desensitise" patients. However, the effectiveness of the treatment varies from one patient to the next and cannot be predicted in advance. LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity launched a new research project with the purpose to better predict the response of the immune system to immunotherapy against allergies and to adjust the treatment to the profile of each patient.
The SYS-T-Act project is carried out in collaboration with IBBL - Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg, the Immunology-Allergology Department of “Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg” (CHL) and the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg.
Anticipate the response to treatment to specifically adapt it
In allergology, immunotherapy consists of progressive exposure to the allergen. In order to desensitise the body, the administered dose of allergen is gradually increased until the maintenance dose, allowing for long-term tolerance, is reached.
The project will investigate in particular the activation of T lymphocytes, a population of immune cells involved in triggering allergic reactions. Advanced methods in computational biology will allow for the analysis and comparison of blood samples from patients allergic to pollen or insect venom, before and during immunotherapy. The researchers expect to identify biomarkers in the patients’ blood that can predict the immune response to anti-allergic treatment even before it is initiated. The treatment type, dose and duration could then be adapted beforehand to the patients’ profiles.
‘Our project could have a significant impact on clinical practice. If successful, a simple blood test will enable physicians to specifically tailor the allergen immunotherapy to each patient’, tells Prof Markus Ollert, Director of the Department of Infection and Immunity, expert in dermatology and allergology, and project coordinator for SYS-T-Act.
Involvement of the first patients
The physicians of the Immunology-Allergology Department at CHL have begun to include the first volunteer patients in the SYS-T-Act study. In a first phase, 15 patients with pollen allergy and 15 with a bee or wasp venom allergy expected to be treated with immunotherapy shall be recruited. Blood samples are taken at different times, before and during immunotherapy.
Later on, a larger follow-up project aims to include more than 100 patients to achieve more representative results. The study will also be extended to peanut and nut allergy.
Joint effort of researchers and clinicians
The project will benefit from LIH’s expertise in immunology and LCSB’s know-how in systems biology. CHL's Immunology-Allergology Department regularly treats patients allergic to pollen and bee and wasp venom by immunotherapy. This service is therefore the ideal clinical partner to generate the biological samples. The biobank IBBL organises sample collection and adequately prepares the samples for subsequent analysis.
The SYS-T-Act project is funded by a Pump Prime Fund of the Personalised Medicine Consortium.