ExACT Immunoplasty is perfect for the person who can't remember to take their allergy drops every day or can't make their schedule work to come in every week for an allergy shot. Chris Thompson, MD, discusses how the therapy works and who is the best candidate for this treatment option.
Bill Klaproth (Host): So if you can knock out your allergies in just three easy visits, would you be interested in that? Alright. Let’s think about it. No more congestion, blowing, runny nose, sneezing, and you can say goodbye to allergy pills and your nose sprays as well. Well all of that is possible now with ExACT immunoplasty. The procedure that will cure your allergies in just eight weeks. Yep, eight weeks. Pretty cool. So let’s learn more with Dr. Chris Thompson, a board certified otolaryngologist, a fellow of the AAOA, and head and neck surgeon with Aspire Allergy and Sinus. This is Achoo, the podcast for people with allergies and sinus issues from Aspire Allergy and Sinus. I'm Bill Klaproth. So Dr. Thompson, what is ExACT immunoplasty?
Chris Thompson MD (Guest): Sure. So ExACT immunoplasty is a procedure that we have started to do that allows us to rapidly expedite the normal time that it takes to get your body to stop reacting to pollens and dust and molds and things that are in the air.
Host: So this sounds like it checks the boxes for many people, and some may be wondering am I a candidate for this? So who is a good candidate for ExACT immunoplasty? Is it for the person who can't remember to take their allergy drops every day or can't make their schedule work to come in every week for an allergy shot or I'm sure other reasons as well.
Dr. Thompson: Well, that’s a great question. We think there are probably millions of people who are suffering who are great candidates. What’s kind of crazy right now is that fewer of 2% of patients who are really allergic get any type of we call it disease modifying therapy meaning. Not Zyrtec or Sudafed or Flonase that’s gonna make you feel better for a little while and then you're gonna go back to where you were. So disease modifying means that we actually change the disease. Allergic rhinitis really is a disease and millions, and millions suffer. Somewhere between 10 and 20% of our population. So you're talking maybe 50 million people. Of those only 1/1.5% are really getting the therapy they need to fix the problem. So we have a problem in allergy. Our therapies aren’t super well accepted because of the length of time it takes. So our hope is with this therapy we can really get those millions of people to take an interest in getting therapy that’s going to fix their problems instead of just put a band aid on it like they’ve been doing.
Host: Those are really interesting stats you gave us. So why don’t more people seek a long term fix for their allergies?
Dr. Thompson: Well, the main reason is that the traditional therapy has been allergy injection therapy which requires coming in on a weekly basis for the first year and getting an allergy shot, and then continuing the process for about four years—somewhere between three and five years—to really fix the problem. It takes a while to get symptomatic benefit from that. So usually the first six months you may not notice benefit. So there's a long lead time to get benefit from the therapy, and then the therapy itself takes a long time. Then people don’t love to get shots. The shots are easy and virtually painless, but it’s still a needle. So it’s hard to get a lot of people excited to do that on a weekly basis. Now allergy drops came along and have improved things. People are much more excited about doing them because they can do them from home or at home, but it’s still the same length of time and the same leadup before you're gonna get your symptoms better.
Both therapies work wonderfully. We can get maybe 85% of people better, but this therapy has the potential, I think, to really get people motivated because with this new therapy and it’s two months and you're done with the therapy. We’ve seen a lot of patients notice benefits after the first injection. So in our world, that’s unheard of, but I really think that this therapy has the potential to really deliver that.
Host: This sounds so promising. So it basically takes years of traditional allergy shot treatment and condenses it to eight weeks. So then how many injections does it take over that eight week period?
Dr. Thompson: So we like to think about it in terms of days. So on day one you get your first treatment. On day 30 you get your second treatment, and then on day 60 you get your third treatment. So three treatments spread about by four weeks.
Host: Oh my goodness. That’s amazing. Then how long does each treatment take?
Dr. Thompson: They usually only take a few minutes. We prep and sterilize the area. We use a sonogram to identify a specific lymph node that we want to put the serum into, and then we’ve got a couple of providers there that are using a needle guidance system so that we can really be precise in delivering the serum into a lymph node. We feel like if you don’t get it into the lymph node, you're probably not doing much better than traditional allergy therapy. So we’ve really spent a lot of time. We’re in the process of getting a patent on our entire process because we've really put a lot of energy. We did a formal study placebo controlled that we got approved with the FDA. So we put a lot into getting this right, and we’re going to collect a lot of data so that we can really confirm what the prior 12 studies have shown. And hopefully maybe modify the therapy in ways that haven’t been done because we haven’t had thousands of patients treated yet with it.
Host: So valuable research is still being done to learn more. So if I have this correct ExACT immunoplasty condenses traditional allergy shot therapy into an eight week period requiring only three injections. This will then, in effect, last a lifetime.
Dr. Thompson: Yes. So that’s our expectation is we can modify the disease. We can build tolerance in patients so that when oak pollen gets in their noses it doesn’t start this chain reaction.
Dr. Thompson: The current allergy therapies do that, and we think this will do the same thing only in a much faster manner.
Host: Right. So earlier you said you can treat three allergens at a time. If someone is suffering from more than that, how does that work? Do you do three and then over another eight week period you do another three? How does that work if someone has got more than three allergens they're dealing with.
Dr. Thompson: So we’ve got a little trick up our sleeve with the limitation on the three. It is true that we can only treat three, but—Let’s say you're allergic to six grasses, six grass pollens. Then you're also allergic to cedar and cypris and dust, we can do a mixture of your grass pollens that will cover everything in one category. Then we can do the dust, and the cedar and the cypris are similar enough that we could treat your cedar. In essence for all—what was that—eight of those allergies or nine of those allergies, we can really effectively treat all of those with just the three components in your serum. We do what we call mixes where we can put smaller components of each category. So maybe three different grasses that we categorize as just one antigen. So we can treat more than three. Basically think of it in terms of three categories.
As to your question though, we have had patients who are allergic—If you are allergic to dog, cat, dust, grasses, ragweed, and a mold then what we do with those is we pick their most pervasive allergies. Studies have shown that if you can get the major allergies out of the way, your other allergies may actually do better without us treating them directly.
Dr. Thompson: So if patients are still having symptoms with those others that we didn’t treat, we can actually treat those 30 days after we finish the first round.
Host: Okay. That makes since. Right. Well, that would be good because you're speaking to a person that suffers from birch, maple, dust mite, and cats. So it’s a mixture.
Dr. Thompson: Yes. Yeah, so that’s the hardest part of the therapy is us putting our heads together and saying, “Okay, which ones are we going to tackle?”
Host: Well, that’s good to know. Especially for people suffering from multiple allergies. So where does all of this start for someone who’s interested in ExACT immunoplasty. Does it start with an allergy test?
Dr. Thompson: That’s exactly right. Some patients come in and they’ve been tested recently. So we don’t have to repeat that, but we want to get it right I guess is my point. We like a relatively recent allergy test. Of course we’re selfish. We like it done our way, but not always. Some patients come in having been tested and some patients come into us having been on drops or currently on drops or shots and they want to tackle a few specific ones. But yes. It all begins with an allergy test.
Host: That test really allows you to dial it in specifically for that individual.
Dr. Thompson: That’s right. It’s not a cookie cutter approach to this. That real estate’s precious and we respect that. We want to get the exact serum for the patient.
Host: So Dr. Thompson as we wrap up can you explain to us why this is such a breakthrough in allergy treatment?
Dr. Thompson: Well, I think the main reason for patients out there who are suffering is that they can do a regiment of therapy that only takes two months, that is virtually painless, and gives them pretty much instantaneous results versus the longer courses that traditional allergy therapy require. I think for them it’s going to be mind-blowing. I'm sure that very few people out there know that this exists and just assume that if they can be fixed it’s really going to be a big deal to try and do that. I think when they learn that this is fast, this is easy, there are multiple, 12 studies out there that show the science behind it. When they understand the process—I think that’s the mind-blowing thing is wow. We really can do something. I don’t have to live like this anymore and live on Zyrtec for the rest of my life.
Host: Well, you know it has to be big when a physician uses the term mind-blowing to describe the therapy. That doesn’t happen very often.
Dr. Thompson: No, that’s true. I really think this has the potential for that. It’s kind of been on the shelf for 20 years and I think it’s time to dust it off--
Host: Wait a minute. Don’t say dust. I'm allergic to dust. So.
Dr. Thompson: Okay.
Host: Well, we’re glad it’s being rolled out that’s for sure. Dr. Thompson, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
Dr. Thompson: Yeah, no problem. Thank you.
Host: That’s Dr. Chris Thompson with Aspire Allergy and Sinus. To learn more or to book a visit, come on in, it’s easy to do. All you have to do is visit aspireallergy.com/exact. Aspireallergy.com/exact. If you found this podcast helpful, please share it on your social channels and check out the full podcast library for topics of interest to you. This is Achoo, the podcast for people with allergies and sinus. I'm Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.
Dr. Thompson focuses solely on allergy, sinus and nasal treatment and is considered an expert in all three fields. He is one of a handful of doctors that played an integral role in the development of the cutting-edge sinus procedure, Balloon Sinuplasty.