Why is there renewed interest in the antibody canakinumab?

Canakinumab is an antibody that has been designed to block a receptor on cells for the chemical signal (cytokine) IL-1b (interleukin-1beta). This receptor and IL-1b have been linked to diseases of inflammation. When canakinumab binds to and blocks access to the receptor, IL-1b cannot use the receptor. In lab experiments with cells and in clinical trials in people, canakinumab can stop or greatly reduce certain inflammatory reactions and their consequences.

Although canakinumab was originally developed for rare conditions, emerging research strongly suggests that this antibody may play an important role in at least two more common conditions: heart attacks and lung cancer. As canakinumab has shown promise in these two conditions, some researchers are becoming excited about its potential for treating inflammation-related complications. Since chronic HIV infection is associated with inflammation, researchers are conducting a clinical trial of canakinumab in HIV-positive people to assess its long-term safety and effectiveness.

In this issue of TreatmentUpdate, we delve into studies of canakinumab in HIV-negative people to better understand its potential in HIV-positive people.

—Sean R. Hosein