When conducting studies on COPD, researchers are dealing with a disease that is a collection of different things, in other words, heterogeneous. According to the ECLIPSE study conducted from 2,164 individuals in 2010, COPD is made up of different factors that affect people differently; when researchers took down the nutritional status, spirometry numbers, exercise tolerance and CT scans of these
COPDers, they found that there were different groups of COPDers. They were fell under different GOLD stages of COPD, were affected by different comorbidities, across both genders.
“Though this study has helped the heterogeneity of COPD be recognized, researchers still don’t quite fully understand it,” says Dr. Stephen Rennard chairman of the SPIROMICS steering committee and Larson Professor of Medicine at the University of Nebraska. “But it’s expected that a new study, SPIROMICS, will change the way scientists and physicians see COPD.”
According to Dr. Rennard, this study will help define the different subsets (or groups) of COPD and their similarity in response to certain treatments. “This is a step closer to personalized medicine,” says Dr. Rennard, “It’ll get us closer to individualizing treatment for COPDers.”
SPIROMICS, which stands for Subpopulation and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD Study, was initiated by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) along with several universities contracted as study sites. Among those participating in SPIROMICS are Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California Los Angeles, University of California San Francisco, University of Utah, Wake-Forest University and University of Michigan. In addition, through a partnership established by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, several representatives of the pharmaceutical and biotherapeutic industry are participating as members of an external scientific board.
Dr. Rennard explains that SPIROMICS is different in size and scope from other studies also being conducted on the heterogeneity of COPD. This study will recruit approximately 3,000 individuals of different backgrounds (men and women of different age groups and ethnicities) to assess their lung function, conduct CT scans and bronchoscopy, and take biochemical measurements from their blood, urine and sputum.
Most studies being conducted aren’t this close to recruiting as many COPDers or this amount of data. SPIROMICS is collecting more biochemical measures from a larger number of people with state-of-the-art technology that can put this information into rich banks of biochemical specimens for research.
Aside from the large amount of data that will be collected, SPIROMICS is also helping accelerate the development of new therapies by standardizing some aspects of research with a protocol. “There are similar studies being conducted in the U.S. and abroad, such as in Germany, Brazil, South Korea and China and they’re all in different stages of the study,” says Dr. Rennard.
In its final stages of review, this protocol will offer foreign research communities the tools to standardize their measurements with those being conducted in the U.S. in order to improve the quality of their research findings.
For the next seven years, SPIROMICS researchers will recruit COPDers for the study, collect these measurements and follow-up with them in three years. Though the study’s current funding doesn’t cover costs after the first seven years, researchers are optimistic that the results will prompt funding for further longitudinal follow-up.
The potential for a therapeutic breakthrough is there and the research community is already on their way.