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    Tackling Food Allergies in Kids: CPMC/Stanford Opens New Pediatric Food Allergy Clinic

    Aviv Shakked and brother Ari have a daily dose of nuts to prevent allergic reactions to them.

    Brothers Ari and Aviv Shakked used to be so allergic to a wide variety of nuts that if they even touched a door handle that had been touched by someone who had handled nuts, they risked going into life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

    “The boys had separate art supplies at school, and we taught their teachers how to use an EpiPen,” says their mother Sharon Anolik Shakked. “When we got home from work each day, we had to wipe down pens, pencils and cell phones, wash our hands and – after I provoked a reaction by kissing the boys six hours after I’d had a peanut butter cup – rinse out our mouths before going into the house.”

    “For airplane trips,” Orr Shakked, the boys’ father, recalls, “Sharon would board with the crew and wipe down every surface near where the boys would sit, and then guard that area until the boys and I boarded last, with the boys keeping their hands under their armpits so they wouldn’t accidentally touch a surface that had peanut oil on it. But you can’t keep controlling your kids’ environment as they grow up. Teenagers in particular take risks. We were living on borrowed time.”

    A Brand-New Approach
    “Food allergies are a growing and very scary problem,” says Claudia Mueller, M.D., medical director of Stanford Children’s Health at CPMC. About 8 percent of children under 18 in the U.S. have a food allergy, and of those, approximately 25 percent will have a near-fatal anaphylactic reaction at some point in their lives.

    Until now, strict avoidance has been the gold standard for dealing with severe food allergies. But the Pediatric Food Allergy clinic at CPMC’s campus on California Street – which operates under a partnership between CPMC and Stanford Children’s Health – offers a new approach to care. Thanks to a novel desensitization protocol developed by Kari Nadeau, M.D., Ph.D., and her team at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford, life has dramatically improved for Ari and Aviv and their parents. The Shakkeds enrolled the boys in a very early Phase 1 clinical trial where Dr. Nadeau and her team countered severe food allergies by exposing patients to increasing doses of the foods that triggered those allergies.

    “It wasn’t so easy to do,” says 10- year-old Ari. “In fact, it was really, really hard sometimes to have the shots and the blood tests and then to eat so many nuts.”

    “But in the end it was totally worth it,” chimes in his 8-year-old brother Aviv. “Because now we can go to restaurants without wiping down the tables and chairs. We can go to camp. I even had a sleep-over.”

    Although others have followed food- desensitization protocols for severe food allergies, Dr. Nadeau’s group has been the first to treat multiple allergies at once, and to speed up the process by using a drug to reduce the patients’ immune response. Instead of taking 18 to 24 months for each allergen, patients can be desensitized to up to five of their trigger foods in well under a year. To keep their bodies un-reactive, they need to eat only a small amount of those foods each day.

    Lives Transformed
    “We were prepared to move to another state where a doctor was desensitizing kids to one allergen at a time,” says Orr. “But our kids would have been ready for college before they finished the treatments. I don’t think we even realized how much this had taken over our lives until we no longer had to be so careful,” he adds. “The clinic at CPMC will bring help to so many more people, and closer to where they live and work.”

    “I want families with food allergies to know that avoidance is not the only path now,” says Sharon. “Thanks to Dr. Nadeau and her team, there is another path. It’s real. It works.”

    A Growing Partnership

    Thanks to a partnership with Stanford Children’s Health, families living in or near San Francisco can now receive multidisciplinary care at the Pediatric Food Allergy Clinic at CPMC’s California Street campus. Led by Efren Rael, M.D., who has been involved in the clinical trials led by Kari Nadeau, M.D., Ph.D., at Stanford’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research, the CPMC clinic offers allergy testing and care for kids with severe food allergies. In addition to allergists, the clinic includes other specialists whose expertise can benefit food allergy patients, such as dermatologists, GI specialists, dieticians and Child Life specialists.

    “We help children deal with everything from the stress of a diagnosis and perhaps a new diet, to the sometimes long testing procedures in the clinic,” says Elyse Cann, a Child Life specialist who works with patients there. “Our job is to make sure that they are taken care of emotionally and socially, based on their age and developmental level.”

    Philanthropy will play a key role in continuing research in pediatric food allergies at CPMC. To learn how your charitable investment can advance this science, please contact Leslie Watanabe at CPMC Foundation, 415-600-4431, or

    For more information or to make an appointment at the Pediatric Food Allergy Clinic, call 415-600-0770.