Antibodies can help reduce migraines

Migraines are headaches that can cause severe pain, and are also associated with symptoms such as sensitivity to light and/or sound, nausea, and vomiting. The condition affects around 20% of women and 6-7% of men, and is incredibly difficult to treat because the causes are not fully understood.

However, two recent clinical trials have had some promising results with an innovative approach involving antibodies.

Antibodies are proteins that can bind to receptors of other cells or molecules, neutralising them. Studies have shown that a chemical called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) in the brain plays a role in the symptoms of light and sound sensitivity.

In one trial, an antibody called ‘erenumab’ created by pharmaceutical company Novartis was tested in 955 patients who suffer from episodic migraines. At the start of the trial, the patients had an average of eight migraines per month, but after treatment 50% of the participants given the antibodies halved this number.

In another study, the antibody ‘fremanezumab’ created by Teva Pharmaceuticals. Of 1,130 patients with chronic migraine (those who suffer for more than 15 days per month), 41% of participants found that the number of attacks they suffered each month had halved. In contrast, those not given antibodies had a reduction of just 18% – but this can reflect the sporadic nature of the disease.

Not only do these treatments seem to reduce the incidence and severity of migraines for sufferers, these trials have also helped researchers improve their understanding of the role of CGRP in the condition. Further research is needed, but these are promising steps towards an effective treatment for this debilitating condition.


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