President's Research Report: What You Make Possible

A Message from the President

Healthy lungs are not only critical for good health, but essential for life itself. No one knows that more than lung disease patients and their caregivers. And no one is working harder to find new ways to prevent, treat and cure lung disease than the American Lung Association. The ongoing threat of COVID-19 has made the need for groundbreaking research even more urgent. With your support, we have stepped up to meet this challenge!

As America’s trusted champion for lung health, we have been a trailblazer in lung disease research for almost 120 years. In this report, you’ll learn more about how our bold research program is tackling today’s most important lung health issues, not just COVID-19, but also asthma, COPD, lung cancer and risks like tobacco use and air pollution.

Our research program is made of two unique parts ‒ our Awards and Grants Program and our Airways Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) network. Awards and Grants funds researchers at all levels, who are studying a wide range of lung health areas.

Our ACRC is the largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma, COPD and all airway diseases, uniquely focusing on research that promises to have an immediate and positive impact on the lives of patients.

In 2021-2022, we are funding 101 promising research projects, including COVID-19 research, for a total of $12.6 million – one of our greatest ever annual investments in research! Our research portfolio spans a vast range of approaches to improving lung health, from clinical studies to assessing the efficacy of anti-vaping laws. Each promising researcher we fund advances the field of lung disease one study at a time.

Through this report you’ll meet members of our Research Team, like Dr. Andrea Pappalardo, who is working on ensuring that children with asthma have access to lifesaving medication at school, and Dr. Lixing Yang, who is studying the genetic mutations that cause lung cancer in patients who have never smoked.

The issue of equity in healthcare has come into sharp focus this past year, and I’m proud we are partnering with ATS and CHEST in the creation of our Respiratory Health Equity Award which will address not only address improving health outcomes for communities of color disproportionately affected by lung disease but also encourage research by investigators who represent those communities.

Through it all, you are our most important team member. Your donations help sustain the research life cycle and you can take pride that your generosity continues to play an indispensable role in saving lives now and in the future.

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

Together, We Can Ensure This Work Continues

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The American Lung Association Is in for the Long Fight Against COVID-19

Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is clear that we are in for a long fight. Last year, the American Lung Association launched the COVID-19 Action Initiative, a $25 million commitment to respond to the nationwide pandemic. Among the many American Lung Association funded investigations of COVID-19, a compelling new study lead by Dr. C. Terri Hough at the Oregon Health and Science University is examining the clinical course of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

The funding from the American Lung Association will help Dr. Hough follow patients longer, collecting important clinical data on their course months after their hospitalization, shedding light on the condition now being called ‘long COVID’, a phenomenon in which individuals experience ongoing health problems long after being infected. These symptoms range from mild headaches and brain fog to very serious problems like extreme fatigue and shortness of breath, persisting a month or more. The issue is widespread, an estimated 11 million Americans currently suffer from long COVID, which presents challenges to their daily lives and activity.

In partnership with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute within the National Institutes of Health, The Recovery after COVID-19 Hospitalization (REACH) study will use data collected from 1300 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the United States. Dr. Hough’s team will use surveys, interviews, and in-person testing to track these patients and gather information about their family experience and how they receive healthcare over the first year they are discharged from the hospital.

By tracking the patterns of symptoms of these patients and paths to recovery, this study can lead to new treatments to improve long-term outcomes after COVID-19 hospitalization and help determine who is at the greatest risk of developing long COVID in the first place.

Millions of Americans are Currently Experiencing 'Long COVID'

Even survivors with mild initial symptoms can have persistent symptoms that last for a month or more after infection with COVID-19.

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Top 5 Symptoms of 'Long COVID'

  1. Cough and Shortness of Breath
  2. Extreme Fatigue
  3. Mental Fog and Headache
  4. Joint and Chest Pain
  5. Loss of Taste and Smell

ACRC Puts Patients First

Research takes patience, as small discoveries build over years before yielding major breakthroughs. But our Airways Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) Network puts another kind of patients first—lung disease patients—focusing on clinical trials which can immediately impact patient lives!

Our ACRC is the largest not-for-profit network of clinical centers dedicated to asthma and COPD research. For over 20 years, the ACRC has continually advanced lung disease research, like determining that the flu vaccine is safe for people with asthma and discovering low-cost, effective asthma treatments for those who cannot use corticosteroids. One current trial is studying if a specific blood pressure medication could help patients with COPD.

First-hand experience matters, and our Patient Advisory Groups, made up of patients and caregivers, guide the ACRC’s current and future studies. One current study has COPD patient advisors helping to promote shared decision making about home oxygen use, prioritizing the patient experience and comfort.

The ACRC is the true jewel in the crown of our research program. With your continued support it will continue to sparkle! Learn more at Lung.org/acrc.


Your Donations Keep the Research Life Cycle Moving

Every dollar you give empowers our researchers to make lifesaving progress against lung disease.

Krishna Reddy

Krishna Reddy, M.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, MA

Projecting the Impact of E-Cigarette Policies

Manufacturers of electronic e-cigarettes (e-cigs) have erroneously claimed that these devices are a medically safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but many studies have questioned if this alleged ‘cure is worse than the disease.’ A major concern is that young people are starting to vape, not to quit cigarettes but rather as a social trend. However, not enough is known about long- term effects, and unfortunately clinical and public health policy decisions are currently made with limited data.

Dr. Krishna Reddy developed a simulation tool which can project the impact of individual or combined e-cig policies on e-cig use, tobacco smoking and downstream health effects among U.S. youth and adults. This is exciting because this simulation considers many variables, which includes such individual differences in behaviors, as well as clinical and cost outcomes. This simulation model helps predict e-cig outcomes quickly and cost effectively compared to real-time studies and trials.

This research will better inform clinical, public health and policy guidelines faster than long-term studies and will help to guide clinical and public health trials data. Using modeling data can quickly help inform policymakers as to how e-cigs should be regulated or prohibited among different populations.

Andrea Pappalardo

Andrea Pappalardo, M.D. 

University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Chicago
Chicago, IL

How Do Schools Deal With Access to the Asthma Medication Albuterol?

In Chicago, one in five children have asthma. During an asthma attack, time is of the essence, and one of the medications that can help them breathe is called albuterol, in the form of an inhaler. The problem is, only 15 states have passed laws which allow inhalers to be kept at schools, ready to be used in an emergency, and some still struggle with logistics and how to safely store these medicines.

Dr. Andrea Pappalardo will study how different school districts across the United States (across urban, suburban, and rural areas) approach their stock albuterol procedures, if they address the issue at all. Sensitive to cultural diversity, she will note differences in demographics, geography, race/ethnicity, and income levels. Then, Dr. Pappalardo and her team will design and pilot a new stock albuterol implementation model in Illinois.

This work will inform a national model of how to stock albuterol in schools, which can be adapted specifically to different communities across the U.S. Advocates can then promote science-based legislation, improving our ability to provide children lifesaving medication immediately

Lixing Yang, Ph.D.

Georgiana Bostean, Ph.D.

The University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

Discovering Genetic Mutations in Lung Cancer in People Who Never Smoked

Cancer is caused mainly by changes to DNA by environmental exposures, such as exposure to tobacco smoke, which is the main cause of lung cancer. However, 1 in 4 lung cancer patients have never smoked in their lifetime, but there have not been many studies of these unexplained tumors. A new study proposed by Dr. Lixing Yang at the University of Chicago was funded by the American Lung Association to discover which genetic changes might cause lung cancer in non-smokers.

Dr. Yang will look for patterns of irregular genetic sequences using gene sequencing data from a National Cancer Institute project which collected 2,500 tumor samples of lung cancers in non-smokers. The Yang Lab is specifically focused on a genetic phenomenon which can shuffle the order of DNA sequences in which two unrelated genes fuse into a new gene that could cause cancer. Finding commonalities across tumors can unlock some of the mysteries of non-smoking lung cancer.

This research can lead to discoveries of new genes that cause lung cancer in never smokers which can lead to a potential disease mechanism, new targets for drugs and ultimately improve patient care and survival.


How your donation helps the American Lung Association fight lung disease:

Every donation matters. For every $1 you donate to the American Lung Association, $0.90 goes toward our program services, which includes funding lung disease research and training the next generation of scientists.

Program services 90%

Your role in the research life cycle:

Your generosity is critical in the life cycle of scientific research. Each dollar enables the American Lung Association to empower these promising researchers to address challenges in asthma, COPD, and lung cancer.

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Your gift supports lifesaving research

Please donate today so this vital research can continue. Together, we can create a world free of lung disease.

Page last updated: June 14, 2022

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