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President's Research Report: What You Make Possible

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A Message from the President

The power of teamwork is essential to the success of our research program. Without your support, we couldn't fund the talented, innovative people on our American Lung Association Research Team. Collaboration with other groups is the key to advancing our research even further—and moving us closer to better ways to prevent, treat and even cure lung diseases. This is the promise of research—a healthier future for all Americans, especially the more than 35 million living with lung disease.

Featured below is our 2018-2019 Research Team and the groundbreaking projects they've been working on this past year. We are investing a total of $7.3 million dollars in research and we're collaborating with other nonprofits, corporations and government agencies to advance the most promising and innovative research.

As we work together on these projects, our most important collaborator is you. Through your generous support, you become a partner in this research. Our deepest thanks for your commitment—we look forward to sharing future discoveries in the fight against lung disease.

—Harold P. Wimmer, National President & CEO, American Lung Association

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Together, We Can Ensure This Work Continues

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The Groundbreaking Research You Support

Meet these pioneering investigators conducting groundbreaking lung disease research:

AMANDA MATHEW, Ph.D.
Northwestern University Chicago, IL
Helping COPD Patients Quit Smoking

Amanda Mathew, Ph.D. is working to design a smoking cessation program specifically for COPD patients. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is caused primarily by smoking, and smoking cessation is the first-line treatment for slowing disease progression. Smokers with COPD report high rates of co-occurring conditions, such as nicotine dependence, depression and anxiety, which are barriers to quitting.&

There is a limited understanding of the psychological risk factors that commonly drive these conditions and how they can be addressed through targeted behavioral treatment. With funding from the American Lung Association, Dr. Mathew is working to develop a novel smoking cessation intervention among COPD patients and will use data from both patients and healthcare providers to guide the delivery of the treatment. Findings will guide the development of a randomized, controlled trial to test a quit-smoking program with the potential to greatly improve the health of COPD patients.   

Dr. Mathew has conducted more than 30 qualitative interviews with current and former cigarette smokers with COPD as well as healthcare providers who treat COPD and identified specific treatment priorities, including addressing the emotional aspects of living with COPD. Patient and provider feedback has directly guided the treatment phase of the study, which will involve recruiting patients who have been recently hospitalized for a COPD symptom flare-up to participate in one of three treatment conditions designed to teach skills for coping with negative emotions especially in the days and weeks after quitting smoking.

ANNA PODOLANCZUK, M.D.
Columbia University New York, NY
Investing Novel Causes of IPF

Headshot of Anna Podolanczuk, M.D.

When Anna Podolanczuk, M.D., began treating patients with lung disease, she found herself telling patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) that there was no treatment to slow or reverse the course of the disease. The only options were lung transplant or supportive care. This is something she hopes to change.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive, often fatal disease that causes tissue inside the lungs to become stiff and scarred, making it difficult to breathe. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. With a Lung Association grant funded by the Dalsemer Endowment, Dr. Podolanczuk is working to help us learn what causes IPF, so we can develop treatments and possibly prevent it.

She is investigating whether exposure to home fungus and bacteria are a risk factor for IPF, which shares many features with chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), a lung disease caused by environmental exposure to mold and bacteria. She believes that IPF and chronic HP may not be distinct diseases, but instead exist along a spectrum, and that home fungal and bacterial exposures are also risk factors for IPF.

Dr. Podolanczuk is conducting a case-control study to establish environmental fungal and bacterial exposure as a novel cause of IPF. She will also perform home visits to collect household dust, and test dust and participants' blood samples to confirm fungal and bacterial exposure. Our findings may lead to future clinical trials of mold remediation strategies to decrease the progression and even improve the prevention of IPF.

MONICA LAWRENCE, M.D.
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA
Easing Children's Asthma

headshot of Monica Lawrence, M.D.

As an allergist, Monica Lawrence, M.D., sees children with severe asthma that is not well-controlled by medication, many of whom miss a sizeable number of school days due to asthma attacks. She was concerned about the amount of time some of her patients spent in emergency care and by the negative impact, this had on their school work and quality of life. The financial burden was also significant because while only 5 percent of childhood asthma cases are severe or treatment-resistant, this type of asthma accounts for almost half of all asthma-related health costs.

With a grant funded in partnership by the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Dr. Lawrence is working to improve our understanding of severe and treatment-resistant asthma in children. Her work will potentially open pathways to new, more effective treatments.

Her research has led her to further investigate a type of white cells called neutrophils. Severe asthma is frequently characterized by the presence of neutrophils, an inflammatory cell type, in the lower airways. However, there are currently no therapies specifically designed to target neutrophilic asthma. She is examining the nature and function of the receptor for a protein called interleukin-5 (IL-5R) on the surface of airway neutrophils. The results of this study could have a major impact on the treatment of severe neutrophilic asthma, by advancing our understanding of how therapies that target the IL-5 pathway might be effective in this disease.

Progress through Collaboration: The Lung Cancer Screening Implementation Guide

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This first-of-its-kind implementation guide for lung cancer screening programs made its debut in 2018.

We're serious in our fight against lung cancer and are working to ensure we've covered every base. To that end, we worked with partners to convene experts from diverse disciplines to develop the Lung Cancer Screening Implementation Guide. This guide provides information on how to implement and conduct low-dose CT screening programs for lung cancer. The Guide offers an overview of the general structure of lung cancer screening programs along with topics for consideration while planning, as well as potential pitfalls and how to avoid them during implementation.

This first-of-its-kind implementation guide for lung cancer screening programs made its debut during the annual American Thoracic Society conference in May 2018. During November's Lung Cancer Awareness Month, we launched a companion website, LungCancerScreeningGuide.org, allowing users to find the information they need by navigating to any particular issue they may face along the course of developing their screening program.

We know that lung cancer screening has the potential to save an estimated 25,000 lives if every American at high risk were screened. The Lung Cancer Screening Implementation Guide is a bold step to expanding access to lung cancer screening across the country, giving more hope to those at risk of lung cancer.

ACRC Patient Advisory Groups: Putting Patients' Perspectives Into Research

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6,900+ patients have participated in an ACRC clinical trial.

Asthma has changed the lives of Tiffany Albury and her daughter Alexis. When Alexis was 7, she was diagnosed with asthma and spent years visiting hospital emergency rooms when she couldn't breathe. Bill White was diagnosed with COPD in 2012. In 2014, he went into respiratory failure and was critically ill for two weeks. He subsequently retired and is hoping to get a lung transplant. Now the valuable experiences and insights of patients like these are helping to guide the work of the American Lung Association's Airways Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) network.

The ACRC is the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to conducting large clinical trials that will directly impact care for patients with asthma and COPD. Tiffany, Alexis, Bill, and other patients are now part of our two Patient Advisory Groups – one focused on asthma, the other on COPD. Together, these volunteer groups provide input from a real patient's perspective to ACRC researchers and clinicians.

ACRC researchers have already begun to integrate their perspectives into program planning and recruitment strategies. One result has been researchers giving more consideration to the burden of a study's regimen—such as frequent medication dosages or keeping symptom diaries—may have on a patient. This could lead to improved recruitment and retention for these studies and a better overall experience for the participants.

The American Lung Association is at the forefront of involving patients and working to make decisions not about people, but with people.

Donor Profile: Bea Klier—Loving Life and Healthy Lungs

Portrait of donor Bea K. with her Christmas seals.

Bea Klier supports research so that families faced with lung cancer diagnosis can have greater hope for survival.

Bea Klier loves life, and at 101 years old, she still finds new ways to enhance her mind, including publishing her first novel, "Hidden–A Novel," at age 99! As a scientist who spent two decades at the New York Academy of Sciences, Bea knows that research moves us forward.

In 2010, she contacted the American Lung Association after her only daughter, Karen Kidder, tragically died of lung cancer at the age of 65. Bea was amazed to learn that close to half of all people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.

"There aren't as many 'faces' of lung cancer because the survival rate is so low," said Bea. "I want to hear more stories of survival, and I know that our best hope of achieving this is through funding more research."

With an initial $25,000 donation to the American Lung Association, Bea memorialized her daughter Karen. Subsequent donations from Bea and others have increased total support to $52,000.

"She was my star," said Bea of Karen. Bea also supports the American Lung Association as a Legacy Society member. By including the Lung Association in her will, other families faced with a lung cancer diagnosis can have greater hope for survival.

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Your gift supports this lifesaving research

Please make a gift today so this vital research can continue without interruption. Together, we can create a world free of lung disease.

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    Page Last Updated: February 11, 2019

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