The cancer patients who were allergic to allergens such as cat dander and ragweed saw their allergic skin test reactivity reduced by 80 to 90 percent in one week, and this persisted with continued use of the drug for at least one to two months. The findings were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in May.

“It almost completely knocked out the patients’ skin test and blood cell allergic reactivity,” said senior author Dr. Bruce Bochner, the Samuel M. Feinberg Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

This FDA-approved drug, ibrutinib, is currently on the market as a successful and less-toxic alternative to chemotherapy for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and mantle cell lymphoma. In this recent study, Bochner and his team performed traditional allergy skin tests and the basophil activation test, a related allergy test using blood cells, on cancer patients before they had taken ibrutinib and again after one week and after one to two months of taking it.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: Ibrutinib’s positive side effect of reduced allergic reactions is interesting. The drug works by blocking one of the mechanisms by which B cells communicate. The downside to this is that there is the potential for many side effects. Very common side effects with ibrutinib include pneumonia, upper respiratory tract infection, headaches, joint pain, sinus infections, and skin infections, among others. Great care should be used when taking it.