Leading asthma program transforming lives

Associate Professor David Langton leads the Peninsula Health monoclonal antibody treatment program for severe asthmatics.

Peninsula Health is transforming the lives of severe asthmatics across the Mornington Peninsula thanks to a leading program based at Frankston Hospital.

The program provides asthma patients with targeted injection-based treatments that are vastly improving their overall health and wellbeing.

It is led by Peninsula Health’s Director of Thoracic Medicine, Associate Professor David Langton.

“We have been involved with asthma research for over 10 years and are pleased to be at the forefront of new treatments for our patients” says A/Prof Langton.

“The results of the treatments to date are amazing. About 95% of patients are improved, often greatly so, with marked reductions in asthma symptoms, reductions in exacerbations, reductions in the need for reliever medication, and improvements in lung function.”

“It is common for patients to say that their lives have been transformed as a result.”

The treatments contain ‘monoclonal antibodies’, which target and block chemicals produced by the immune system that lead to airway inflammation. It is a major step forward from the use of oral steroids, which have been the mainstay of treating severe asthma in the past despite many negative side effects.

How does the program work?

Patients with severe asthma are assessed at the hospital’s Severe Asthma Clinic. Symptoms, medication usage, exacerbation frequency and lung function are assessed. This is followed by a blood test to determine if a monoclonal antibody will work for a particular patient.

About 50% of patients with severe asthma will be found to be suitable for these new treatments, which are administered by subcutaneous injection. The first three injections are administered on-site by specialist respiratory nursing staff, and patients are then taught how to self-administer, allowing them to manage their own future treatments at home.

After six months in the program, patients are re-assessed for their symptoms, quality of life and lung function improvements. This allows the medical and nursing staff to monitor and track improvement.

“There are many people in our community whose severe asthma is not being adequately treated, including those relying solely on oral steroids,” says A/Prof Langton.

“Our aim is to let these people know that our program could vastly improve their quality of life.”

Transforming patient lives

Since it began in 2017, the monoclonal antibody treatment program has transformed the lives of many Peninsula Health patients, two of which have shared their experiences below.

Will Footner, 19

Will Footner was nine years old when asthma became a major debilitating factor in his life. Over the past decade, Will has battled severely disrupted sleep, shortness of breath, painful headaches and bouts of nausea, all related to his condition.

The 19-year-old also missed an average of 80 – 100 days of school per year, and for a long time believed he may never complete his VCE.

In 2019, Will underwent bronchial thermoplasty with A/Prof Langton, and in 2020 began the monoclonal antibody treatment program which has led to life-changing results. His overall health and wellbeing has improved drastically, and he is now living with a level of freedom he did not previously expect was possible.

“Three years ago, I didn’t think I would be well enough to finish school,” explains Will. “I felt as though I was always playing catch-up, losing a seemingly never-ending battle to not let my health dictate everything I did.”

“Now, thanks to David’s program, I have finished school, started working at the Portsea Pub, and am beginning my studies in Criminal Psychology at Swinburne University in March.”

“It’s all so immensely surreal and I have so many beautiful people to be thankful for.” 

Anna Melville, 56

Anna Melville’s battle with asthma spanned two decades, which began after she was diagnosed with both the condition and aspergillosis around 20 years ago.

Her symptoms were often severe and significantly impacted her daily life, leaving her short of breath and preventing her from exercising. She also endured a chronic cough, including sporadic coughing fits in the middle of the night, even while she was asleep.

Anna was referred to the monoclonal antibody treatment program in 2020 and began her treatment in August. Since then, Anna’s quality of life has improved significantly.

She says her airways have completely opened up and she is now able to keep active without succumbing to debilitating shortness of breath – something she has not been able to do for many years.

“Since beginning my treatment, I am now able to swim, exercise and enjoy everyday activities without the strain of my asthma holding me back,” says Anna.

“The program at Frankston Hospital has been amazing, and the staff have provided training so that I can continue to independently administer my injections at home.”

“My cough has now almost disappeared too, which I am thrilled about. For a long time I thought my cough would be something I would have to live with my entire life. However, today I am almost cough-free, which is wonderful.”

How to get involved

Participation in the monoclonal antibody treatment program requires a referral to our Severe Asthma Clinic from either a respiratory specialist or our Respiratory Outpatient service. Please speak with your General Practitioner for more information.

To learn more, including whether it is time to speak with your GP about your asthma, you can visit https://www.asthmatime2review.com.au/.