29 June 2017
Asthma is a complex chronic inflammatory disease of multifactorial etiology. International guidelines increasingly recognize that a standard “one size fits all” approach is no longer an effective approach to achieve optimal treatment outcomes, and a number of disease phenotypes have been proposed for asthma, which has the potential to guide treatment decisions. Among the many asthma phenotypes, allergic asthma represents the widest and most easily recognized asthma phenotype, present in up to two-thirds of adults with asthma. Immunoglobulin E (IgE) production is the primary and key cause of allergic asthma leading to persistent symptoms, exacerbations and a poor quality of life. Therefore, limiting IgE activity upstream could stop the entire allergic inflammation cascade in IgE-mediated allergic asthma. The anti-IgE treatment omalizumab has an accepted place in the management of severe asthma (Global Initiative for Asthma [GINA] step 5) and represents the first (and, currently, only) targeted therapy with a specific target in severe allergic asthma. This review summarizes current knowledge of the mechanisms and pathogenesis of severe asthma, examines the actual role of IgE in asthma and the biological rationale for targeting IgE in allergic asthma and reviews the data for the efficacy and safety of omalizumab in the treatment of severe asthma. Current knowledge of the role of IgE in asthma, extensive clinical trial data and a decade of use in clinical practice has established omalizumab as a safe and effective targeted therapy for the treatment of patients with severe persistent IgE-mediated allergic asthma.