When I was in Boston to participate in the FAAN walk, my table of Allergic Girl books was situated right next to the dream team of doctors from The Food Allergy Center at MGH. Below is a Q&A all about them and their mission. Read on!
Allergic Girl: What is the FAC mission?
The Food Allergy Center: Our mission is to improve the health of people affected by food allergies by providing team care and leading new research.
AG: How does FAC fulfill its mission?
FAC: We provide the best currently available care and we work to discover and adapt better and ultimately curative treatments. We also partner with our patients and families to foster education and research and to achieve the best possible outcomes.
AG: What population does the FAC serve?
FAC: The Food Allergy Center at MGH is one of only a handful that provide coordinated care for both kids and adults affected by food allergies. As a result, we provide continuity of care for our patients, including a consistent approach to diagnosis and treatment, as they move from pediatric to adult care.
We address all known and suspected food allergies including IgE-mediated food allergy (e.g., immediate, potentially anaphylactic reactions to milk, egg, peanut, etc.); IgE-associated diseases (e.g., eosinophilic esophagitis, EoE, eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders, EGID, and atopic dermatitis); and other immune-mediated reactions to food (e.g., food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome, FPIES).
AG: Who are the key players?
Wayne Shreffler, MD, PhD, Director
Qian Yuan, MD, PhD, Clinical Director
Paul E. Hesterberg, MD
Shuba Iyengar, MD
Perdita Parmaul, MD
Jolan E. Walter, MD, PhD
Aubrey J. Katz, MD
Jyoti Ramakrishna, MD
Nancy S. Rotter, PhD
Carolyn A. Butterworth, RD, RN, BS
Anne Lukowski, RD, LDN, MS
Elisabeth S. Stieb, RN, BSN
Margaux A. Nichols, RN
Stephanie A. Kubala, BS
Lead Research Coordinator
AG: How do you “treat” food allergies and other food related immunologic disease?
FAC: Our program is a comprehensive, coordinated effort by specialists in pediatric and adult medicine because we believe in a well-integrated, multidisciplinary approach that can provide continuity of care. In addition to core services from allergy/immunology, gastroenterology, nutrition, and psychology, we may involve specialists from dermatology, pulmonology or others depending on the needs of an individual patient.
Our approach is also evidence based and driven by a strong belief in protecting and preserving the quality of a patient’s life. We also partner with our patients as well as the parents of pediatric patients.
We are committed to having an impact on food allergy, including discovering or enhancing our understanding of possible treatments. As a result, we have a diverse plan for current and anticipated research that will attack food allergy from different angles and stages of the allergic reaction.
To start, the FAC is currently enrolling peanut allergic children ages 7-21 years in an oral immunotherapy study. The FAC is also gearing up for an OIT study just funded by the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease (part of the NIH) looking at 60 older adolescents and adults (age 16 years and up) with milk and peanut allergies. Recruitment should begin in the Winter 2011-12. The research will focus on how the T cell arm of the immune system is changed by OIT and which changes are best associated with clinical protection. We hope that studying these cells will help researchers understand and improve immunotherapy.
With the above studies paving the way, the FAC is also determined to conduct a novel, multi-food study in collaboration with Stanford University in the not-too-distant future. The hope is that multi-food allergic individuals would receive increasing amounts of different allergens sequentially, thus enabling researchers to examine how immune system responses to one food during OIT may impact the development of tolerance to another.
The world-class infrastructure for clinical research at MGH and the expertise of our team has also led to our anticipated participation in a number of multi-center trials for novel approaches to treating food allergies, including a new anti-IgE drug and a trans-cutaneous allergen delivery device, among others.
Researchers within the FAC are also actively pursuing additional innovative approaches including the use of specific adjuvants (immune boosting additives used with vaccines) which may help the immune system overcome an allergic reaction. Although, not yet applied to the treatment of food allergy, some adjuvants have already shown promise when used to treat environmental allergies, which are similar in mechanism to allergies to foods.
We also hope to unlock some of the mysteries surrounding esophinophillic esophagitis (EoE) and other gastrointestinal disorders with two studies actively enrolling participants. The first is an observational study of the biomarkers for EoE. The other examines early childhood risk factors using a survey of children under 5 years of age. More studies involving collaboration between investigators in the FAC and throughout MGH and the Harvard community are planned with the goal to obtain NIH support for an EoE research program.
Thank you FAC!
MGH Professional Office Building, 275 Cambridge Street, Suite 530
Cox Building, 55 Fruit Street, Suite 201
Phone: 617-643-6834 | Fax: 617-724-0239