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Monoclonal antibodies make leap to veterinary medicine

Jennifer Parker
15 November 2017, at 10:58am

Zoetis has launched the first monoclonal antibody therapy approved for veterinary use in the European Union.

Cytopoint (lokivetmab) is a targeted treatment for atopic dermatitis in dogs. The monoclonal antibody targets and neutralises canine interleukin-31 – a key cytokine involved in the itching and inflammation associated with atopic dermatitis. The therapy helps the dog to stop scratching, allowing wounds to heal.

At the launch event, Thierry Olivry, professor of immunodermatology at NC State University, noted that “recombinant biotherapeutics have been used for some time, but monoclonal antibodies are new because of their unique target”. Unlike steroids, which can cause an array of side-effects, the therapy should affect the itching cytokine without impacting other immune functions.

Atopic dermatitis is very heterogenous, so no treatment works for 100% of patients, Thierry said, but he claimed Cytopoint has had an impressive success rate in studies. The therapy makes a significant difference in just one day and the antibodies can stay in circulation for up to a month, says the firm.

The therapy “brings great benefits for quality of life”, it says – both for the dog and the owner. Cytopoint is easy to administer and long-lasting – it doesn’t have to be applied daily like current treatments, and can be given in the form of a monthly, vet-administered injection. It can also be used in combination with other medications, including vaccinations. These factors make a huge difference, particularly for a disease that often requires lifelong treatment, Zoetis says.

Speaking at the product launch, Andy Hillier, senior veterinary specialist at Zoetis, commented: “Monoclonal antibody therapy is the fastest-growing therapeutic area in human medicine, and Zoetis has focused on how these therapies can be translated to animal health.”

There is potential for application to many more chronic veterinary diseases. Monoclonal antibodies could be beneficial for supporting diagnosis and therapy of cancer in veterinary oncology and some believe they will be part of standard care for canine lymphoma within five years.

In the 40 years since their discovery, there has been a focus on the potential of monoclonal antibodies in human medicine. The launch of Cytopoint marks the first step for monoclonal antibodies in veterinary medicine in the EU, but the potential stretches far beyond canine atopic dermatitis. In future, monoclonal antibodies may come to be commonly used for the treatment of infectious diseases, cancer, immune diseases, and arthritis – in human and veterinary medicine.