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University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Beginning Study of Severe Asthma

PITTSBURGH, October 1, 2002 — The Asthma, Allergy and Airway Research Center (AAARC) of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has begun a clinical research study to identify and understand biological aspects of severe asthma in comparison with people who have mild to moderate asthma.

The study, funded by a $5 million grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, is part of the Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP), which is a consortium of eight centers nationwide. Each center has its own specific hypothesis-driven study to evaluate the mechanisms and consequences of severe asthma.

Asthma is a disease of variable airway obstruction (blocking), hyper-responsiveness (irritability), and inflammation (swelling). Abnormalities of airway obstruction and hyper-responsiveness lead to symptoms of shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. The majority of asthma sufferers do respond to asthma treatments or medications such as inhaled corticosteroids.

"However, in a small fraction of asthma patients, current therapies are ineffective in improving one or more aspects of asthma such as airway limitation, shortness of breath, cough, wheezing or other asthma symptoms," said William J. Calhoun, M.D., associate professor of medicine; director of the Asthma Program/Comprehensive Lung Center and director of the Asthma, Allergy and Airway Research Center.

"The goal of this research is to evaluate subjects with severe asthma, those asthmatics that do not respond to inhaled corticosteroid therapy, and to establish the mechanisms by which this lack of response may occur. People with mild to moderate asthma, whose asthma is controlled with inhaled corticosteriods, also will be evaluated in this research as a comparison group."

Dr. Calhoun will study 100 subjects (approximately 200 will be enrolled) with the diagnosis of severe asthma and mild to moderate asthma. This study is expected to last for a five-year period with each individual subject completing two office visits over one month. Male and female participants between the ages of 18 and 50 will be enrolled in this study.

For more information about the study, please call the Asthma, Allergy and Airway Research Center (AAARC) of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine at 412-647-0778.

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