A step closer to personalised medicine for severe asthma

"Professor Fan Chung"An international study looking at personalised medicine for patients with severe asthma has been awarded £2.3 million from the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The PRISM study (PRecision Intervention in Severe asthMa) aims to introduce personalised medicine to ensure the right medications are prescribed to the right patients.

Personalised medicine (sometimes known as precision medicine) is a move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the treatment and care of patients with a particular condition, towards one which considers the individual differences in genes, environment and lifestyle, to guide the best treatment for a particular individual. 

Personalised medicine is already used in severe asthma and involves looking at the level of eosinophils - a type of white blood cells - present in the blood. This biomarker is used to decide which patients are most likely to benefit from a new class of treatments for severe asthma, known as biologic antibody treatments. 

However, a sizeable proportion of these patients being treated with antibody biologics do not respond to the currently available treatments. While another proportion of these patients cannot get biologic antibody treatments at all because they have low levels of blood eosinophil.

The PRISM study aims to better characterise the type of asthma in each individual by using their unique makeup of genes and proteins, to develop biomarkers that are more accurate than the blood eosinophil count, in predicting good response to biologic treatments. 

For those patients for whom current treatments do not work, the researchers hope new, more effective treatments will be developed from a better understanding of what is actually making the asthma severe.

Professor Fan Chung (pictured), respiratory consultant at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, is leading the study. 

On what this will mean for patients with severe asthma, Professor Chung said, “The PRISM project will bring hope for patients suffering from severe asthma by improving the doctor’s diagnosis of the type of severe asthma they are suffering from. This will ultimately lead to better treatments at a personalised level for every patient suffering from this often very disabling condition.”

The study which is under a UK-South Korea collaboration aims to begin this year and will be conducted in collaboration between the Trust, Imperial College London, Nottingham University Hospital and Leicester University Hospitals, and several hospital universities in South Korea.

To find out more about this project or to find out more about any of our research please contact us.