Researchers continue to study new uses for biologic medicines. A new study supported by the National Institutes of Health is using omalizumab to determine if it can aid food allergy oral immunotherapy (OIT).

The study is called Omalizumab as Monotherapy and as Adjunct Therapy to Multi-Allergen Oral Immunotherapy in Food Allergic Children and Adults. It tests the ability of biweekly or monthly injections of omalizumab – alone or together with multi-allergen oral immunotherapy – to increase a person’s ability to tolerate foods to which they are allergic.

Multi-allergen OIT involves eating a small, gradually increasing amount of several allergens in a controlled setting to build tolerance to those allergens. The NIH study will include those who are allergic to peanut, cow’s milk, egg, wheat and tree nuts.

Researchers will assess whether the treatment can help prevent allergic reactions from eating small amounts of foods that may be consumed unintentionally and reduce the risk for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening emergency.

Omalizumab is marketed under the brand name Xolair® and it’s designed to reduce immunoglobulin E (IgE), antibodies that trigger allergic reactions.

“We want to know if this drug can intercept the allergic antibody that starts the allergic response, essentially blocking the messenger before the signal is delivered in the majority of food-allergic people,” says R. Sharon Chinthrajah, MD, clinical associate professor at Stanford University and study co-chair.

Data from earlier studies suggest that omalizumab may help prevent allergic reactions to small amounts of food allergens. In 2017, a small study found that 83 percent of participants could consume 2 grams of two food allergens after receiving omalizumab injections and OIT.