About the Session

Every year in the United States, more than 3 million people develop reactions that include rash, hives or difficulty breathing after taking certain medications.  At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, our clinical research studies on drug allergies have reduced the severity of allergic outcomes and re-hospitalization in patients.  This session will look at basic research in drug allergies ranging from aspirin to chemotherapy, incorporating research on patient outcomes in a clinical setting.

This session will be moderated by Josh Boyce.

11AM – 12PM

Bornstein Amphitheater

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Mariana Castells, MD, PhD

Drug Allergy and Hypersensitivity: From Testing to Desensitization

Dr Mariana Castells is a clinician/teacher/researcher at the BWH Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy Division serving as Director of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Training Program, Director of Drug Hypersensitivity and Desensitization Center, and the Associate Director of the Mastocytosis Center. She is in charge of the Drug Hypersensitivity and Desensitization Center for both in-patients and out-patients and  evaluates about 300-400 patients per year with drug adverse reactions to chemotherapy, monoclonal antibodies, small molecules, antibiotics and other drugs. She provides  diagnostic and treatment options, and attends for over 400 high-risk desensitization procedures during which patient are able to be treated with the best medication for their disease, protecting them from anaphylaxis.


Dr Castells has a research laboratory and studies inhibitory mast cell mechanisms that lead to temporary cell desensitization and unresponsiveness to antigens. A recent publication in the European Journal of Immunology indicates, against the established dogma, that desensitization is an active and specific process that maintains the antigen, IgE and IgE receptor FcεR at the cell surface and is not associated with mediator release. Current research includes the use of humanized mouse mast cell transgenes to assess desensitization through the human IgE receptor FcεRI and the use of basophil tests to asses in vitro and in vivo activation and desensitization of chemotherapy, antibiotics, and monoclonals allergic patients. Microarray technologies are planned to unfold further molecular players of desensitization and to provide the identification of genes involved in the process.

Tanya Laidlaw, MD

What Happens When You are Allergic to all Over-the-Counter Pain Medications?

Tanya M. Laidlaw, MD completed her medical degree at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, her residency in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital, and then entered an Allergy/Immunology fellowship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. She joined the faculty in 2009, and is now an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and is the Director of Translational Research in Allergy at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her research, which began during her fellowship training, continues to be focused on understanding Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease (AERD), and she is dedicated to investigating the causative mechanisms of AERD, exploring new treatments for the disease, and working to understand how patients can become desensitized to aspirin. Her group at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s AERD Center follows over 250 patients with AERD and has several ongoing research studies that are recruiting and enrolling patients.


Dr. Laidlaw is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy in the Department of Medicine. She is also the Director of Translational Research in Allergy.


Visit the AERD Website

Paige Wickner, MD, MPH

Paige Wickner, MD, MPH, is a clinical allergist at BWH. Her research interests center around the electronic medical records and listed drug allergies with projects that aim to improve safe administration of antibiotics, narrow antibiotic spectrum and improve quality of patient care.


Dr. Wickner is an Instructor in the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy in the Department of Medicine. She is also the Director of Quality and Safety for Allergy and Immunology and the Assistant Medical Director for Quality and Safety at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.