February 20 is National Love Your Pet day. For many pet owners, this is a great reminder to appreciate their loyal companions that elicit smiles and make them feel loved when spending time together. However, for people with allergies to pets, the special pet-owner relationship is complicated by the irritating symptoms owners often endure when in close proximity to their beloved pets. For people who don’t find sufficient relief from or are otherwise burdened by existing treatment options, some ultimately make the emotionally painful decision to give up their cats, depriving themselves or family members from companionship with their adored pets.
The record cold temperatures hitting North America this winter are not making life any easier for people allergic to their pets. Many people are finding themselves stuck indoors for long periods of time with their pets. For the millions of Americans allergic to their cats, this can lead to intensified symptoms like sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and runny or blocked nose. It is estimated that one-quarter of the population may suffer from cat allergy, a common and year-long condition in which exposure to cat allergens such as dander (shedding skin cells) provoke unpleasant and often disruptive symptoms.
We at Peninsula Research Associates are one of 77 sites across the U.S. and Canada currently seeking eligible volunteers for a major clinical research study evaluating an investigational cat allergy medicine to determine whether it can help reduce symptoms for a sustained period with a relatively short course of treatment. The CATALYST study (www.thecatallergystudy.com) is a Phase 3 clinical research study, meaning that the investigational medicine has been found in previous, smaller studies to be sufficiently safe and well-tolerated in people suffering from cat allergy to justify a larger study.
Many people with cat allergies try managing their symptoms with prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids and decongestants. Sufferers with moderate to severe cat allergy may undergo a series of allergy shots, also known as allergen immunotherapy, which works by trying to teach the immune system to tolerate cat allergens rather than fight them. Allergen immunotherapy typically begins with once- or twice-weekly injections for several months and gradually tapers in frequency to once monthly, but for as long as 3-5 years. Unfortunately, currently available treatment options are associated with poor patient compliance and the potential for side-effects.
The CATALYST study is designed to evaluate a different approach to allergen immunotherapy to determine whether the investigational medicine can provide sustained allergen tolerance and corresponding symptom relief over an extended period with only four or eight doses of immunotherapy.
To potentially qualify for the CATALYST Study, participants must be between the ages of 12 and 65, have a cat at home and have been diagnosed with cat allergy for at least two years. Participation does not require insurance, and participants will receive all study exams and medication at no cost. Compensation for time and travel may also be provided. Local residents who want to explore eligibility should call Peninsula Research Associates at 310-265-1623.
More information on the CATALYST study can be found at www.thecatallergystudy.com.
-Dr. Lawrence D. Sher, medical director at Peninsula Research Associates
Dr. Sher founded Peninsula Research Associates in 1999, a clinical research center based in Rolling Hills Estates. He’s been practicing in the area for over 25 years, and is also a physician at Palos Verdes Medical Group.
 American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/Types/pet-allergies/Pages/cat-allergy.aspx)