Fall 2014News

Treatment coming for disease that scars the lungs

Plans are under way to upgrade the JGH’s ability to treat individuals with interstitial lung disease, an ailment—often of unknown origin—that causes progressive scarring of the lung tissue, thereby sharply reducing the amount of oxygen that enters the bloodstream.

According to Dr. Andrew Hirsch, Chief of the JGH Division of Pulmonary Diseases, a specialist in interstitial lung disease is tentatively set to join the Division next summer, after spending two years in clinical training and research in San Francisco. The specialist, Dr. Deborah Assayag, previously trained at the JGH on a fellowship, Dr. Hirsch added.

The disease, while not common, is far from rare, and until now, the treatments have not worked well, if at all, says Dr. Hirsch. “This has made it an especially depressing disease, because it’s been so difficult to offer patients any hope.”

However, he notes that at an international symposium this past May, pulmonary experts were told about the results of three major drug trials, two of which showed promise in slowing the progression of the disease, though not curing it. One of those drugs has been approved for use in Canada, but Dr. Hirsch says some details—for instance, exactly which patients should receive it—need to be ironed out.

“On the whole, I’m optimistic and excited,” he says, “because it looks as if we finally have an opportunity to make headway.”

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