Researchers at National Jewish Health have identified a simple gene-based blood test that more accurately and quickly measures cystic fibrosis patients' response to therapy than current tests. The test, a measure of inflammatory gene expression, could improve patient care and help clear a backlog of promising medications now hung up in clinical trials. The researchers recently published the results of a small "proof-of-principal" trial in the online version of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, and will also publish them in a future print issue.
"The currently accepted test, a measure of a patients' ability to exhale air, has several limitations that make it ineffective for some patients and not sensitive enough for clinical trials of many new medications," said Dr. Milene Saavedra, lead author of the study and Assistant Professor of Medicine at National Jewish Health. "By measuring the activity of genes associated with the immune/inflammatory response, we can get a more accurate picture of the biological processes occurring inside the lungs."
Cystic fibrosis is the most common lethal inherited disease in the western world, with about 30,000 patients in the US. Most patients die of respiratory failure generally in their 30s or 40s. Lung damage is caused primarily by chronic bacterial infections and the resulting severe airway inflammation. There is a critical need for new effective anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory medications to slow and/or prevent lung damage in young patients. Several promising therapies have gone through early stages of clinical testing but their progress is being hampered by the lack of a sensitive measure of therapeutic response to medications.
Currently, response to medication is measured by how much air a person can rapidly exhale: forced expiratory volume in one second or FEV1. FEV1 cannot be performed effectively for all patients, especially young and very sick patients. Generally patient
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National Jewish Medical and Research Center