Lung Association’s Vermont “Asthma Clinical Research Center” Offers Hope for New Asthma Treatments, Helps Patients Keep their Disease in Check

Enosburg Falls Nurse Has Participated in Three Research Studies in Vermont

Vermonters who suffer from asthma have access to an invaluable resource that not only has the potential to change to the future of asthma treatment, but help them live healthier lives in the process.   The American Lung Association’s Asthma Clinical Research Center (ACRC), located at the University of Vermont, enables asthma patients who meet certain criteria to participate in research trials that could improve the way asthma is treated and managed.

“To think that I am involved in a study that could completely improve my lung function is exciting,”  says Kathleen Bovat of Enosburg Falls,  who is currently participating in a clinical trial at the Center. “I enjoy participating and will continue to be involved whenever I meet the criteria for a study.  I see participating as not only a way to help improve my asthma, but be part of something that has the potential to greatly improve treatment for the vast majority of asthmatics who, like me, struggle to breathe.”

Kathleen BovatAsthma is a chronic disease that can be serious or even life threatening. While there’s no cure for asthma, it can be managed so that sufferers can live normal, healthy lives.  With more than 25.9 million Americans living with asthma, including 7.1 million children under the age of 18, the American Lung Association invests heavily in asthma treatment research through its Asthma Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) Network. 

“The goal of the ACRCs, including the one based at the University of Vermont, is to uncover effective prevention and treatment strategies that will help improve the lives of those afflicted by asthma,”  says Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.  “Of the children under 18 who have asthma nationwide, over half of them have experienced an asthma attack in the previous year.  We want to see these numbers improve and eventually disappear. Funding the research done at our centers is essential to helping us find new, more effective treatments that will not only help people better manage their disease, but save lives.”

Seyler noted that the American Lung Association’s ACRC Network is the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma treatment research, attracting some of the best asthma investigators worldwide.  The Northern New England Consortium is based at the Vermont Lung Center at the University of Vermont.

But the work of ACRCs wouldn’t be possible without the help of asthmatics, like Kathleen Bovat, who agree to participate in the trials the center conducts.  Bovat, who works as a nurse in Burlington learned about the Lung Center through her pulmonolgist. She’s since participated in two studies and is now completing a third. She says she tells everyone she knows who has asthma about the Lung Center and encourages them to see if they might be a candidate for a study.  “I think it’s beneficial to know the latest information about asthma and what sorts of new treatments might be on the horizon,” says Bovat. “I am excited about the prospect of finding a new treatment that can help me be healthier.”

 Bovat says that an added bonus of being involved in the studies is that she finds herself being more compliant and better managing her asthma. “By monitoring my peak flows and keeping a diary of my symptoms, I’ve found that I can detect if I am having a problem much earlier.  The tracking I need to do for the studies enables me to see which way I am trending and this process has helped me stay healthier.”

The initial results of two of the studies Bovat participated in, SOYA and STAN, were recently reported at the American Thoracic Society’s annual meeting.  “Our results indicate that while chronic sinusitis is an irritating co-morbidity, treatment of the condition will not improve asthma control in either adults or children” said Anne Dixon, MA, BM BCh, co-PI of the ACRC at the University of Vermont and lead investigator of the STAN trial. “By knowing that nasal steroids do not improve asthma control, doctors and patients alike should rethink the use of these medications for the control of asthma.  Talk with your doctor before discontinuing any medication, as each patient’s specific needs will vary.”

Bovat is now participating in a study called LASST whose acronym stands for Long-acting Beta Agonist Step-Down Study.  While she says she hasn’t yet found that treatment that has drastically improved her asthma, Bovat says she hasn’t given up hope. She hopes that through participation in the studies she will find a new treatment that greatly improves her quality of life.

Since its inception in 1999, the ACRC network has completed seven trials leading to 30 published papers in peer-review journals and an additional 35 papers are preparing stories.  The ACRCs have a long history of significantly contributing to the body of knowledge about lung health. Their work has resulted in major findings with immediate clinical application.   The network has also secured approximately $21 million in government funding and $12 million in industry and foundation support, in addition to $38 million in American Lung Association support.

The ACRC is currently recruiting for three different protocols. For more information about the Asthma Clinical Research center in Vermont or to see if you might be a candidate for a study, visit the Vermont Lung Center’s website at http://www.vermontlung.org/.

To learn more about asthma, visit the Lung Association’s website at lung.org/asthma