Stanford trial finds drug effective for food allergies: Here's how it is helping Bay Area girl

ByGloria Rodríguez and Tim Didion KGO logo
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Stanford trial finds drug effective for food allergies
Researchers at Stanford say a newly approved drug treatment could change the lives of millions of children with food allergies.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Researchers at Stanford say a newly approved drug treatment could change the lives of millions of children with food allergies.

While it's not a cure, they say it can protect even younger children from dangerous and sometimes life-threatening reactions.

From skiing the slopes, to playing softball, to dancing across the stage, Anabelle Terry is about as active and healthy as any 12 year old you're likely to meet.

As long as she's careful.

"Yes, I do have allergies. I have allergies to all nuts and tree nuts, peanuts and tree nuts," she explains.

And like millions of children and adults with food allergies, Anabelle has to be painstakingly careful about what she eats avoiding foods that have even a trace of something like peanuts which can give her a severe reaction.

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The Food and Drug Administration approved a medication called Xolair to help lessen the severity of an accidental allergic reaction in people who are allergic to multiple foods.

"Well, having an allergy is pretty hard because nuts are pretty common in cooking and other foods like that. I have learned to avoid them by asking people what's in these dishes and reading labels of everything. And I just have to be on guard all the time and just watch out for all the nuts," she says.

But Anabelle's life is about to become a lot less scary thanks to a clinical trial led by Stanford. That's where she received injections of a drug called Xolair.

Dr.Sharon Chinthrajah, M.D., says it works at the cellular level, to block the immune system's over-reaction to food proteins.

"It's an injection that soaks up all of the allergic antibodies in people with allergies. And so it takes it out of circulation. So we were excited to study this in food allergy patients, because food allergy patients are making allergic antibodies to food proteins," explains Dr. Chinthrajah.

The drug was developed by Bay Area-based Genentech partnering with Novartis.

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A woman died from an allergic reaction after eating a cookie sold by Stew Leonard's that was not properly labeled as containing peanuts, officials said.

In the Stanford trial, it was shown to be safe and effective even in small children.

Doctors say the treatment doesn't eliminate the allergy. Kids still have to be extremely cautious to about snacks with peanuts or other foods they're allergic to. But the injections are able to keep patients safe from accidental reactions. Anabelle's mom, Victoria says the extra protection is a relief from the almost constant stress.

"You know, travel, going to school, going to events, assuring that whatever's on the plate doesn't have knots or cross contamination with knots. So it and it's a daily thing, because you know, there's food out there every single day, and having to alter that and make sure that she's safe every single day. Just added that extra anxiety," says Victoria.

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A New Jersey mom is speaking out after she claimed crewmembers on a United Airlines flight refused to accommodate her son's peanut allergy.

And for Anabelle, it's a chance to live her active life with confidence.

"I do competitive dance. I play softball. I'm a girl scout, and I love doing theater, too. And I just I'm I love animals and I love building things too. I really like a lot of stuff," she says.

Based on the results of the multi-site trial, the FDA has now officially approved for the drug for treating certain food allergies.

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