Tara Haelle

June 13, 2017

HELSINKI — Prevention and precision medicine will take center stage at the upcoming European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) congress.

"We are shifting from treating to preventing allergic diseases. And I believe it's important that we change our approach from complete avoidance to intervention," said outgoing EAACI President Antonella Muraro, MD, PhD, professor of pediatric allergy at the University of Padua in Italy.

Immunologic studies have shown that there is a window of opportunity for early prevention, explained Dr Muraro, who will be speaking about the prevention of food allergy during a plenary session.

In the first year of life, the immune system learns to modulate its response to allergens, strengthening the immunoglobulin G response instead of the allergic immunoglobulin E response. "In children with an atopic background, we can try to modify, through intervention, allergic sensitization and then clinical manifestations," she told Medscape Medical News.

Biologics for the treatment of severe allergic conditions, such as asthma, is one of many big topics.

The tailoring of treatment on the basis of an individual's clinical characteristics and immunologic patterns is gaining momentum in the field of allergy medicine, so precision medicine is expected to be another hot topic at the congress.

"We are moving from a general allergen and immunotherapy treatment to one individualized to the specific patient, the specific allergen, and, most important, to molecules," Dr Muraro reported.

"In a way, we as allergists have always had this approach. We aim to characterize each patient in relation to his or her allergic immune response to specific allergens," said Lars Poulsen, PhD, from the allergy clinic at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark. And more than 3000 specific allergens have been identified to date, he pointed out.

"This is not only an academic exercise, it is also significant for patients because new classes of biologic drugs will become available that will specifically act on one endotype," Dr Poulsen explained.

In fact, "different biomarkers can help identify patients who might benefit from new treatment modalities, such as biologics," said Susanne Halken, MD, DMSci, professor of pediatric allergy at Hans Christian Andersen Children's Hospital and Odense University Hospital in Denmark, who is the EAACI scientific program coordinator.

"Biologics for the treatment of severe allergic conditions, such as asthma, is one of many big topics" that will be addressed at the congress, she told Medscape Medical News.

Microbiome: A Rapidly Growing Field

The microbiome will be the focus of another plenary session, where topics such as respiratory and skin microbiota and the role of diet will be addressed.

"Microbiome research now shares a systematic approach with other areas, such as genetics and epigenetics," said Dr Poulsen. This has led us to "become better at analyzing the tsunami of data coming out of studies."

The increase in drug-allergy research in recent years is reflected in the "surge in both abstracts and delegates coming to our dedicated drug-hypersensitivity meeting and to sessions on drug allergy," he added.

Much of the research that will be presented at the congress can be directly translated into daily practice.

"Research findings should not stand alone, but should inspire other opportunities for research and, most important, inspire clinical trials and clinical practice," Dr Muraro said. "The benefit of patients is our goal." One of the most important initiatives of the EAACI is the United Action for Allergy and Asthma campaign, which is a call to action to support research into allergic diseases and asthma.

"We are advocating for more services for allergic patients, better funding for research, and more opportunities to develop precision medicine," she explained.

"We need support from everybody — from the allergist community, patients, the media, and policymakers. This will make the difference for allergic patients," she added.

New Guidelines on Allergen Immunotherapy

Clinical practice guidelines on allergen immunotherapy, developed with the input of more than 100 experts, will be introduced at the congress. This is the first time a project of this magnitude has been undertaken by the EAACI, Dr Muraro pointed out.

Attendees will have the opportunity to explore the different procedures and equipment used to diagnose and treat allergic diseases during the clinical village sessions, said Antti Lauerma, MD, PhD, director of inflammatory diseases at Helsinki University Central Hospital, who is chair of the congress.

"I look forward to hosting this special event as chair, and welcoming allergists from all over the world," he added.

"Interactive workshops and learning lounges, with plenty of room for questions and discussion in a relaxed atmosphere, have been very popular" at previous congresses, said Dr Halken.

Participation in these well-liked sessions is limited and they fill up quickly, so preregistration is recommended, Dr Halken told Medscape Medical News. The online program and the EAACI app will help attendees identify interactive workshops and learning lounges they might be interested in.

Dr Muraro reports consulting arrangements with Meda, Novartis, Menarini, ALK, Nestlé, and Stallergenes, and receiving lecture fees from Meda and Menarini. Dr Poulsen reports receiving grants or personal fees from ALK, Anergis, Novartis, and Biomay, and consulting for Novozymes. Dr Halken and Dr Lauerma have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Follow Medscape Allergy & Clinical Immunology on Twitter @MedscapeAllergy and Tara Haelle @TaraHaelle

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