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Summary

Omalizumab is a humanized monoclonal anti-IgE antibody developed for the treatment of allergic disease, with established efficacy in patients with moderate-to-severe allergic asthma and in patients with intermittent (seasonal) and persistent (perennial) allergic rhinitis (AR). Omalizumab is known to result in a marked reduction in serum levels of free IgE and down-regulation of IgE receptors on circulating basophils. Recent work has shed further light on its mechanism of action, showing significant and profound reductions in tissue (nasal and bronchial) eosinophils and in bronchial IgE+ cells (mast cells), as well as T cells and B cells. Omalizumab treatment was also shown to be associated with down-regulation of IgE receptors on circulating (precursor) dendritic cells, suggesting that blocking IgE may inhibit more chronic aspects of allergic inflammation involving T cell activation. Further work with omalizumab demonstrated it to have important benefits in patients with poorly controlled asthma despite high-dose inhaled corticosteroid therapy, and analysis of clinical data suggests that the patients who are the best ‘responders’ to anti-IgE treatment are those with asthma at the more severe end of the spectrum. Notably, systemic anti-IgE therapy with omalizumab has been shown to improve symptoms, quality of life and disease control (asthma exacerbations) in patients with concomitant asthma and persistent AR. These impressive clinical data and the studies elucidating the anti-inflammatory profile of omalizumab also serve to emphasize the fundamental importance of IgE in the pathogenesis of allergic diseases.