Even though chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States, afflicting an estimated 20 million Americans, it has proven very difficult to find effective treatments for the disease.
In large part, that is because COPD is really several different diseases masquerading as one. Although all patients suffer restricted airflow in and out of the lungs, some patients have more airway inflammation, while others suffer tissue destruction. Each patient has a unique combination of genes and biological pathways that actively contribute to the disease.
Such variety means there is no such thing as a one-size-fits- all treatment. Instead, scientists need to characterize the different forms of the disease so that effective treatment strategies can be developed for the individual circumstances of each person's disease. The COPDGene study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Monfort Family Foundation, and led by National Jewish Health Professor of Medicine James Crapo, MD, seeks to do just that.
COPDGene researchers are examining subjects' genomes, their CT scans, and blood samples. They will gather patient histories and monitor the course of their disease. All this information will then be carefully analyzed so that the researchers will be able to separate COPD patients into distinct, biologically relevant subgroups.
"Once we can distinguish different forms of COPD, we will be able to develop prevention and treatment strategies tailored to the individual," said Dr. Crapo. "With COPDGene National Jewish Health is truly pioneering the development of personalized medicine."