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1.  Increased activation of blood neutrophils after cigarette smoking in young individuals susceptible to COPD 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):121.
Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Only a subgroup of smokers develops COPD and it is unclear why these individuals are more susceptible to the detrimental effects of cigarette smoking. The risk to develop COPD is known to be higher in individuals with familial aggregation of COPD. This study aimed to investigate if acute systemic and local immune responses to cigarette smoke differentiate between individuals susceptible or non-susceptible to develop COPD, both at young (18-40 years) and old (40-75 years) age.
All participants smoked three cigarettes in one hour. Changes in inflammatory markers in peripheral blood (at 0 and 3 hours) and in bronchial biopsies (at 0 and 24 hours) were investigated. Acute effects of smoking were analyzed within and between susceptible and non-susceptible individuals, and by multiple regression analysis.
Young susceptible individuals showed significantly higher increases in the expression of FcγRII (CD32) in its active forms (A17 and A27) on neutrophils after smoking (p = 0.016 and 0.028 respectively), independently of age, smoking status and expression of the respective markers at baseline. Smoking had no significant effect on mediators in blood or inflammatory cell counts in bronchial biopsies. In the old group, acute effects of smoking were comparable between healthy controls and COPD patients.
We show for the first time that COPD susceptibility at young age associates with an increased systemic innate immune response to cigarette smoking. This suggests a role of systemic inflammation in the early induction phase of COPD.
Trial registration NCT00807469
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12931-014-0121-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4203909  PMID: 25301367
Acute smoking; COPD; Susceptibility; Biomarkers; Inflammation
2.  Common genes underlying asthma and COPD? Genome-wide analysis on the Dutch hypothesis 
The European respiratory journal  2014;44(4):860-872.
Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are thought to share a genetic background (“Dutch hypothesis”).
We investigated whether asthma and COPD have common underlying genetic factors, performing genome-wide association studies for both asthma and COPD and combining the results in meta-analyses.
Three loci showed potential involvement in both diseases: chr2p24.3, chr5q23.1 and chr13q14.2, containing DDX1, COMMD10 (both participating in the NFκβ pathway) and GNG5P5, respectively. SNP rs9534578 in GNG5P5 reached genome-wide significance after first stage replication (p=9.96·*10−9). The second stage replication in seven independent cohorts provided no significant replication. eQTL analysis in blood and lung on the top 20 associated SNPs identified two SNPs in COMMD10 influencing gene expression.
Inflammatory processes differ in asthma and COPD and are mediated by NFκβ, which could be driven by the same underlying genes, COMMD10 and DDX1. None of the SNPs reached genome-wide significance. Our eQTL studies support a functional role of two COMMD10 SNPs, since they influence gene expression in both blood cells and lung tissue. Our findings either suggest that there is no common genetic component in asthma and COPD or, alternatively, different environmental factors, like lifestyle and occupation in different countries and continents may have obscured the genetic common contribution.
PMCID: PMC4217133  PMID: 24993907
3.  Perceived quality of life in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients: a cross-sectional study in primary care on the role of illness perceptions 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:140.
Previous research has shown that in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients, it is important to consider not only physical functioning and complaints but also psychological factors, such as illness perceptions, to explain differences in Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL). The objective of this study is to analyse the extent to which the specific dimensions of illness perceptions according to the Common Sense Model (corrected for airflow limitation, dyspnoea and comorbidities) contribute to HRQoL.
In a cross-sectional study in primary care, 90 COPD patients completed questionnaires: The Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire, the Medical Research Council dyspnoea scale, the Clinical COPD Questionnaire (CCQ) and the Chronic Respiratory Questionnaire (CRQ). Analyses were performed with multiple linear regression.
When corrected for confounders (airflow limitation, dyspnoea and comorbidities), identity (β = .42) and comprehensibility (β = -.16) were associated with HRQoL (CCQ). Identity, comprehensibility and dyspnoea explained 56% of the variation in HRQoL (R2 = .56). Consequences (β = -.50) and treatment control (β = .20) were associated with HRQoL (the CRQ’s physical domain). They explained 59% of the variation in the CRQ physical (R2 = .59) domain. Treatment control (β = .19) and emotional response (β = -.33) were associated with the CRQ emotional domain.
Patients who experience fewer symptoms attributed to COPD, who have a better understanding of the disease, who experience less impact of COPD in daily life, who experience better treatment control and who have less of an emotional response have better HRQoL. This study indicates that the HRQoL of COPD patients is associated with illness perceptions as well as with the severity of dyspnoea as experienced by patients. Airflow limitation measures or comorbidities do not add to the explanation of HRQoL. The results of this study provide starting points for the development of interventions focusing on illness perceptions to support COPD patients in their disease management and to improve HRQoL.
PMCID: PMC4134125  PMID: 25087008
Chronic lung diseases; COPD; Psychological factors; Illness beliefs; Common Sense Model; Participation in daily life; Health-related quality of life; Primary care
4.  Lower Corticosteroid Skin Blanching Response Is Associated with Severe COPD 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91788.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by chronic airflow limitation caused by ongoing inflammatory and remodeling processes of the airways and lung tissue. Inflammation can be targeted by corticosteroids. However, airway inflammation is generally less responsive to steroids in COPD than in asthma. The underlying mechanisms are yet unclear. This study aimed to assess whether skin corticosteroid insensitivity is associated with COPD and COPD severity using the corticosteroid skin blanching test.
COPD patients GOLD stage I–IV (n = 27, 24, 22, and 16 respectively) and healthy never-smokers and smokers (n = 28 and 56 respectively) were included. Corticosteroid sensitivity was assessed by the corticosteroid skin blanching test. Budesonide was applied in 8 logarithmically increasing concentrations (0–100 μg/ml) on subject's forearm. Assessment of blanching was performed after 7 hours using a 7-point scale (normal skin to intense blanching). All subjects performed spirometry and body plethysmography.
Both GOLD III and GOLD IV COPD patients showed significantly lower skin blanching responses than healthy never-smokers and smokers, GOLD I, and GOLD II patients. Their area under the dose-response curve values of the skin blanching response were 586 and 243 vs. 1560, 1154, 1380, and 1309 respectively, p<0.05. Lower FEV1 levels and higher RV/TLC ratios were significantly associated with lower skin blanching responses (p = 0.001 and p = 0.004 respectively). GOLD stage I, II, III and IV patients had similar age and packyears.
In this study, severe and very severe COPD patients had lower skin corticosteroid sensitivity than mild and moderate COPD patients and non-COPD controls with comparable age and packyears. Our findings together suggest that the reduced skin blanching response fits with a subgroup of COPD patients that has an early-onset COPD phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3951419  PMID: 24622644
5.  Daily activities and health-related quality of life in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: psychological determinants: a cross-sectional study 
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients are confronted with reduced daily activities (DA) and reduced health-related quality of life (HRQoL) caused by dyspnea and systemic effects such as skeletal muscle dysfunction and co-morbidities. To understand the complexity of living with COPD, it is important to understand which factors, in addition to physical functioning, are associated with DA and HRQoL. In this study, we explored the extent to which the combination of illness perceptions, proactive coping, and depressive symptoms contribute to DA and HRQoL in COPD patients.
In a cross-sectional study in primary care, 90 COPD patients (GOLD I-III) completed questionnaires: the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire, the Utrecht Proactive Coping Competence scale, the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale, the Medical Research Council dyspnea scale, the Functional Performance Inventory (FPI), and the Clinical COPD Questionnaire (CCQ). The analyses were performed with multiple linear regression analyses.
More adequate and positive illness perceptions (β = .61, p < .001) and less depressive symptoms (β = .21, p = .010) were associated with better HRQoL (CCQ). Significant relations between psychological factors and DA were not found.
The results of this study demonstrate that psychological factors are related to HRQoL, but not to DA. These results contribute to understanding the complexity of living with COPD and provide starting points for the development of interventions focusing on psychological factors to support COPD patients in disease management.
PMCID: PMC4228311  PMID: 24192270
Daily Activities (DA); COPD; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Depressive symptoms; Functional performance; Illness perceptions; Proactive coping; Health-related quality of life
6.  Development and validation of a model to predict the risk of exacerbations in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Prediction models for exacerbations in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are scarce. Our aim was to develop and validate a new model to predict exacerbations in patients with COPD.
Patients and methods
The derivation cohort consisted of patients aged 65 years or over, with a COPD diagnosis, who were followed up over 24 months. The external validation cohort consisted of another cohort of COPD patients, aged 50 years or over. Exacerbations of COPD were defined as symptomatic deterioration requiring pulsed oral steroid use or hospitalization. Logistic regression analysis including backward selection and shrinkage were used to develop the final model and to adjust for overfitting. The adjusted regression coefficients were applied in the validation cohort to assess calibration of the predictions and calculate changes in discrimination applying C-statistics.
The derivation and validation cohort consisted of 240 and 793 patients with COPD, of whom 29% and 28%, respectively, experienced an exacerbation during follow-up. The final model included four easily assessable variables: exacerbations in the previous year, pack years of smoking, level of obstruction, and history of vascular disease, with a C-statistic of 0.75 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.69–0.82). Predictions were well calibrated in the validation cohort, with a small loss in discrimination potential (C-statistic 0.66 [95% CI 0.61–0.71]).
Our newly developed prediction model can help clinicians to predict the risk of future exacerbations in individual patients with COPD, including those with mild disease.
PMCID: PMC3797610  PMID: 24143086
exacerbation of COPD; risk prediction; external validation; vascular disease
7.  Accuracy of symptoms, signs, and C-reactive protein for early chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
The British Journal of General Practice  2012;62(602):e632-e638.
Guidelines recommend detection of early chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but evidence on the diagnostic work-up for COPD only concerns advanced and established COPD.
To quantify the accuracy of symptoms and signs for early COPD, and the added value of C-reactive protein (CRP), in primary care patients presenting with cough.
Design and setting
Cross-sectional diagnostic study of 73 primary care practices in the Netherlands
Four hundred primary care patients (182 males, mean age 63 years) older than 50 years, presenting with persistent cough (>14 days) without established COPD participated, of whom 382 completed the study. They underwent a systematic diagnostic work-up of symptoms, signs, conventional laboratory CRP level, and hospital lung functions tests, including body plethysmography, and an expert panel decided whether COPD was present (reference test). The independent value of all items was estimated by multivariable logistic regression analysis.
According to the expert panel, 118 patients had COPD (30%). Symptoms and signs with independent diagnostic value were age, sex, current smoking, smoking more than 20 pack-years, cardiovascular comorbidity, wheezing complaints, diminished breath sounds, and wheezing on auscultation. Combining these items resulted in an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC area) of 0.79 (95% confidence interval = 0.74 to 0.83) after internal validation. The proportion of subjects with elevated CRP was higher in those with early COPD, but CRP added no relevant diagnostic information above symptoms and signs.
In subjects presenting with persistent cough, the CRP level has no added value for detection of early COPD.
PMCID: PMC3426602  PMID: 22947584
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; C-reactive protein; diagnosis; general practice
8.  Clinical utility of asthma biomarkers: from bench to bedside 
Asthma is a chronic disease characterized by airway inflammation, bronchial hyperresponsiveness, and recurrent episodes of reversible airway obstruction. The disease is very heterogeneous in onset, course, and response to treatment, and seems to encompass a broad collection of heterogeneous disease subtypes with different underlying pathophysiological mechanisms. There is a strong need for easily interpreted clinical biomarkers to assess the nature and severity of the disease. Currently available biomarkers for clinical practice – for example markers in bronchial lavage, bronchial biopsies, sputum, or fraction of exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) – are limited due to invasiveness or lack of specificity. The assessment of markers in peripheral blood might be a good alternative to study airway inflammation more specifically, compared to FeNO, and in a less invasive manner, compared to bronchoalveolar lavage, biopsies, or sputum induction. In addition, promising novel biomarkers are discovered in the field of breath metabolomics (eg, volatile organic compounds) and (pharmaco)genomics. Biomarker research in asthma is increasingly shifting from the assessment of the value of single biomarkers to multidimensional approaches in which the clinical value of a combination of various markers is studied. This could eventually lead to the development of a clinically applicable algorithm composed of various markers and clinical features to phenotype asthma and improve diagnosis and asthma management.
PMCID: PMC3762671  PMID: 24009412
asthma; airway inflammation; biological markers; pharmacogenomics; metabolomics
9.  Computed Tomography Structural Lung Changes in Discordant Airflow Limitation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65177.
There is increasing evidence that structural lung changes may be present before the occurrence of airflow limitation as assessed by spirometry. This study investigated the prevalence of computed tomography (CT) quantified emphysema, airway wall thickening and gas trapping according to classification of airflow limitation (FEV1/FVC <70% and/or < the lower limit of normal (LLN)) in (heavy) smokers.
A total number of 1,140 male former and current smokers participating in a lung cancer screenings trial (NELSON) were included and underwent chest CT scanning and spirometry. Emphysema was quantified by the 15th percentile, air way wall thickening by the square root of wall area for a theoretical airway with 10mm lumen perimeter (Pi10) and gas trapping by the mean lung density expiratory/inspiratory (E/I)-ratio. Participants were classified by entry FEV1/FVC: group 1>70%; group 2<70% but >LLN; and group 370% but FEV1 <80% predicted, were excluded. Multivariate regression analysis correcting for covariates was used to asses the extent of emphysema, airway wall thickening and gas trapping according to three groups of airflow limitation.
Mean (standard deviation) age was 62.5 (5.2) years and packyears smoked was 41.0 (18.0). Group 2 subjects when compared to group 1 had a significantly lower 15th percentile, −920.6 HU versus −912.2 HU; a higher Pi10, 2.87 mm versus 2.57 mm; and a higher E/I-ratio, 88.6% versus 85.6% (all p<0.001).
Subjects with an FEV1/FVC<70%, but above the LLN, have a significant greater degree of structural lung changes on CT compared to subjects without airflow limitation.
PMCID: PMC3681780  PMID: 23785411
10.  Diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in lung cancer screening Computed Tomography scans: independent contribution of emphysema, air trapping and bronchial wall thickening 
Respiratory Research  2013;14(1):59.
Beyond lung cancer, screening CT contains additional information on other smoking related diseases (e.g. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD). Since pulmonary function testing is not regularly incorporated in lung cancer screening, imaging biomarkers for COPD are likely to provide important surrogate measures for disease evaluation. Therefore, this study aims to determine the independent diagnostic value of CT emphysema, CT air trapping and CT bronchial wall thickness for COPD in low-dose screening CT scans.
Prebronchodilator spirometry and volumetric inspiratory and expiratory chest CT were obtained on the same day in 1140 male lung cancer screening participants. Emphysema, air trapping and bronchial wall thickness were automatically quantified in the CT scans. Logistic regression analysis was performed to derivate a model to diagnose COPD. The model was internally validated using bootstrapping techniques.
Each of the three CT biomarkers independently contributed diagnostic value for COPD, additional to age, body mass index, smoking history and smoking status. The diagnostic model that included all three CT biomarkers had a sensitivity and specificity of 73.2% and 88.%, respectively. The positive and negative predictive value were 80.2% and 84.2%, respectively. Of all participants, 82.8% was assigned the correct status. The C-statistic was 0.87, and the Net Reclassification Index compared to a model without any CT biomarkers was 44.4%. However, the added value of the expiratory CT data was limited, with an increase in Net Reclassification Index of 4.5% compared to a model with only inspiratory CT data.
Quantitatively assessed CT emphysema, air trapping and bronchial wall thickness each contain independent diagnostic information for COPD, and these imaging biomarkers might prove useful in the absence of lung function testing and may influence lung cancer screening strategy. Inspiratory CT biomarkers alone may be sufficient to identify patients with COPD in lung cancer screening setting.
PMCID: PMC3673831  PMID: 23711184
Quantitative CT analysis; Computed Tomography; Pulmonary emphysema; Airway remodeling; Lung cancer screening; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Tobacco smoking
11.  Rate of progression of CT-quantified emphysema in male current and ex-smokers: a follow-up study 
Respiratory Research  2013;14(1):55.
Little is known about the factors associated with CT-quantified emphysema progression in heavy smokers. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of length of smoking cessation and clinical / demographical factors on the rate of emphysema progression and FEV1-decline in male heavy smokers.
3,670 male smokers with mean (SD) 40.8 (17.9) packyears underwent chest CT scans and pulmonary function tests at baseline and after 1 and 3 years follow-up. Smoking status (quitted ≥5, ≥1-<5, <1 years or current smoker) was noted. Rate of progression of emphysema and FEV1-decline after follow-up were assessed by analysis of variance adjusting for age, height, baseline pulmonary function and emphysema severity, packyears, years in study and respiratory symptoms. The quitted ≥5 group was used as reference.
Median (Q1-Q3) emphysema severity,<-950 HU, was 8.8 (5.1 – 14.1) and mean (SD) FEV1 was 3.4 (0.73) L or 98.5 (18.5) % of predicted. The group quitted ‘>5 years’ showed significantly lower rates of progression of emphysema compared to current smokers, 1.07% and 1.12% per year, respectively (p<0.001). Current smokers had a yearly FEV1-decline of 69 ml, while subjects quit smoking >5 years had a yearly decline of 57.5 ml (p<0.001).
Quit smoking >5 years significantly slows the rate of emphysema progression and lung function decline.
Trial registration
Registered at with trial number ISRCTN63545820.
PMCID: PMC3669040  PMID: 23688060
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); Emphysema; Smoking; Pulmonary function testing
12.  CT Air Trapping Is Independently Associated with Lung Function Reduction over Time 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61783.
We aimed to study the association between lung function decline and quantitative computed tomography (CT) air trapping.
Materials and Methods
Current and former heavy smokers in a lung cancer screening trial underwent volumetric low-dose CT in inspiration and expiration. Spirometry was obtained at baseline and after 3 years. The expiratory to inspiratory ratio of mean lung density (E/I-ratioMLD) was used to quantify air trapping. CT emphysema was defined as voxels in inspiratory CT below −950 Hounsfield Unit. Linear mixed modeling was used to determine the association between CT air trapping and lung function.
We included 985 subjects with a mean age of 61.3 years. Independent of CT emphysema, CT air trapping was significantly associated with a reduction in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and the ratio of FEV1 over the forced vital capacity (FEV1/FVC); FEV1 declines with 33 mL per percent increase in CT air trapping, while FEV1/FVC declines 0.58% per percent increase (both p<0.001). CT air trapping further elicits accelerated loss of FEV1/FVC (additional 0.24% reduction per percent increase; p = 0.014).
In a lung cancer screening cohort, quantitatively assessed air trapping on low-dose CT is independently associated with reduced lung function and accelerated decline of FEV1/FVC.
PMCID: PMC3628859  PMID: 23613934
13.  Variants in the 15q24/25 Locus Associate with Lung Function Decline in Active Smokers 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53219.
Genetic variation in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes (nAChRs) is associated with lung function level and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is unknown whether these variants also predispose to an accelerated lung function decline. We investigated the association of nAChR susceptibility variants with lung function decline and COPD severity. The rs1051730 and rs8034191 variants were genotyped in a population-based cohort of 1,226 heavy smokers (COPACETIC) and in an independent cohort of 883 heavy smokers, of which 653 with COPD of varying severity (LEUVEN). Participants underwent pulmonary function tests at baseline. Lung function decline was assessed over a median follow-up of 3 years in COPACETIC. Current smokers homozygous for the rs1051730 A-allele or rs8034191 G-allele had significantly greater FEV1/FVC decline than homozygous carriers of wild-type alleles (3.3% and 4.3%, p = 0.026 and p = 0.009, respectively). In the LEUVEN cohort, rs1051730 AA-carriers and rs8034191 GG-carriers had a two-fold increased risk to suffer from COPD GOLD IV (OR 2.29, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.11–4.75; p = 0.025 and OR = 2.42, 95% [CI] = 1.18–4.95; p = 0.016, respectively). The same risk alleles conferred, respectively, a five- and four-fold increased risk to be referred for lung transplantation because of end-stage COPD (OR = 5.0, 95% [CI] = 1.68–14.89; p = 0.004 and OR = 4.06, 95% [CI] = 1.39–11.88; p = 0.010). In Europeans, variants in nAChRs associate with an accelerated lung function decline in current smokers and with clinically relevant COPD.
PMCID: PMC3548843  PMID: 23349703
14.  Visual versus Automated Evaluation of Chest Computed Tomography for the Presence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e42227.
Incidental CT findings may provide an opportunity for early detection of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which may prove important in CT-based lung cancer screening setting. We aimed to determine the diagnostic performance of human observers to visually evaluate COPD presence on CT images, in comparison to automated evaluation using quantitative CT measures.
This study was approved by the Dutch Ministry of Health and the institutional review board. All participants provided written informed consent. We studied 266 heavy smokers enrolled in a lung cancer screening trial. All subjects underwent volumetric inspiratory and expiratory chest computed tomography (CT). Pulmonary function testing was used as the reference standard for COPD. We evaluated the diagnostic performance of eight observers and one automated model based on quantitative CT measures.
The prevalence of COPD in the study population was 44% (118/266), of whom 62% (73/118) had mild disease. The diagnostic accuracy was 74.1% in the automated evaluation, and ranged between 58.3% and 74.3% for the visual evaluation of CT images. The positive predictive value was 74.3% in the automated evaluation, and ranged between 52.9% and 74.7% for the visual evaluation. Interobserver variation was substantial, even within the subgroup of experienced observers. Agreement within observers yielded kappa values between 0.28 and 0.68, regardless of the level of expertise. The agreement between the observers and the automated CT model showed kappa values of 0.12–0.35.
Visual evaluation of COPD presence on chest CT images provides at best modest accuracy and is associated with substantial interobserver variation. Automated evaluation of COPD subjects using quantitative CT measures appears superior to visual evaluation by human observers.
PMCID: PMC3407100  PMID: 22848747
15.  A unique protein profile of peripheral neutrophils from COPD patients does not reflect cytokine-induced protein profiles of neutrophils in vitro 
Inflammation, both local and systemic, is a hallmark of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Inflammatory mediators such as TNFα and GM-CSF are secreted by lung epithelium, alveolar macrophages and other inflammatory cells and are thought to be important contributors in the pathogenesis of COPD. Indeed, neutrophils are activated by these cytokines and these cells are one of the major inflammatory cell types recruited to the pulmonary compartment of COPD patients. Furthermore, these inflammatory mediators are found in the peripheral blood of COPD patients and, therefore, we hypothesized that TNFα/GM-CSF-induced protein profiles can be found in peripheral neutrophils of COPD patients.
Using fluorescence 2-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis we investigated differentially regulated proteins in peripheral neutrophils from COPD patients and healthy age-matched control subjects. Furthermore, protein profiles from COPD patients were compared with those of neutrophils of healthy age-matched controls that were stimulated with TNFα and/or GM-CSF in vitro. Protein gels were compared using DeCyder 7.0 software.
We identified 7 significantly regulated protein spots between peripheral neutrophils from COPD patients and age-matched healthy control subjects. Stimulation of peripheral neutrophils with TNFα, GM-CSF or TNFα + GM-CSF in vitro resulted in 13, 20 and 22 regulated protein spots, respectively. However, these cytokine-induced protein differences did not correspond with the protein differences found in neutrophils from COPD patients.
These results show that neutrophils from COPD patients have a unique protein profile compared to neutrophils from healthy age-matched controls. Furthermore, the neutrophil profiles of COPD patients do not reflect putative dominant signals induced by TNFα, GM-CSF or their combination. Our results indicate that systemic neutrophil responses in COPD patients are caused by a unique but subtle interplay between multiple inflammatory signals.
PMCID: PMC3176249  PMID: 21896197
16.  How do COPD patients respond to exacerbations? 
Although timely treatment of COPD exacerbations seems clinically important, nearly half of these exacerbations remain unreported and subsequently untreated. Recent studies have investigated incidence and impact of failure to seek medical treatment during exacerbations. Yet, little is known about type and timing of other self-management actions in periods of symptom deterioration. The current prospective study aims at determining the relative incidence, timing and determinants of three types of patient responses.
In a multicentre observational study, 121 patients (age 67 ± 11 years, FEV1pred. 48 ± 19) were followed for 6 weeks by daily diary symptom recording. Three types of action were assessed daily: planning periods of rest, breathing techniques and/or sputum clearing (type-A), increased bronchodilator use (type-B) and contacting a healthcare provider (type-C).
Type-A action was taken in 70.7%, type-B in 62.7% and type C in 17.3% of exacerbations (n = 75). Smokers were less likely to take type-A and B actions. Type-C actions were associated with more severe airflow limitation and increased number of hospital admissions in the last year.
Our study shows that most patients are willing to take timely self-management actions during exacerbations. Future research is needed to determine whether the low incidence of contacting a healthcare provider is due to a lack of self-management or healthcare accessibility.
PMCID: PMC3170646  PMID: 21854576
17.  Level of daily physical activity in individuals with COPD compared with healthy controls 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):33.
Persons with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), performing some level of regular physical activity, have a lower risk of both COPD-related hospital admissions and mortality. COPD patients of all stages seem to benefit from exercise training programs, thereby improving with respect to both exercise tolerance and symptoms of dyspnea and fatigue. Physical inactivity, which becomes more severe with increasing age, is a point of concern in healthy older adults. COPD might worsen this scenario, but it is unclear to what degree. This literature review aims to present the extent of the impact of COPD on objectively-measured daily physical activity (DPA). The focus is on the extent of the impact that COPD has on duration, intensity, and counts of DPA, as well as whether the severity of the disease has an additional influence on DPA.
A literature review was performed in the databases PubMed [MEDLINE], Picarta, PEDRO, ISI Web of Knowledge and Google scholar. After screening, 11 studies were identified as being relevant for comparison between COPD patients and healthy controls with respect to duration, intensity, and counts of DPA. Four more studies were found to be relevant to address the subject of the influence the severity of the disease may have on DPA. The average percentage of DPA of COPD patients vs. healthy control subjects for duration was 57%, for intensity 75%, and for activity counts 56%. Correlations of DPA and severity of the disease were low and/or not significant.
From the results of this review, it appears that patients with COPD have a significantly reduced duration, intensity, and counts of DPA when compared to healthy control subjects. The intensity of DPA seems to be less affected by COPD than duration and counts. Judging from the results, it seems that severity of COPD is not strongly correlated with level of DPA. Future research should focus in more detail on the relation between COPD and duration, intensity, and counts of DPA, as well as the effect of disease severity on DPA, so that these relations become more understandable.
PMCID: PMC3070642  PMID: 21426563
18.  Detecting exacerbations using the Clinical COPD Questionnaire 
Early treatment of COPD exacerbations has shown to be important. Despite a non-negligible negative impact on health related quality of life, a large proportion of these episodes is not reported (no change in treatment). Little is known whether (low burden) strategies are able to capture these unreported exacerbations.
The Clinical COPD Questionnaire (CCQ) is a short questionnaire with great evaluative properties in measuring health status. The current explorative study evaluates the discriminative properties of weekly CCQ assessment in detecting exacerbations.
In a multicentre prospective cohort study, 121 patients, age 67.4 ± 10.5 years, FEV1 47.7 ± 18.5% pred were followed for 6 weeks by daily diary card recording and weekly CCQ assessment. Weeks were retrospectively labeled as stable or exacerbation (onset) weeks using the Anthonisen symptom diary-card algorithm. Change in CCQ total scores are significantly higher in exacerbation-onset weeks, 0.35 ± 0.69 compared to -0.04 ± 0.37 in stable weeks (p < 0.001). Performance of the Δ CCQ total score discriminating between stable and exacerbation onset weeks was sufficient (area under the ROC curve 0.75). At a cut off point of 0.2, sensitivity was 62.5 (50.3-73.4), specificity 82.0 (79.3-84.4), and a positive and negative predictive value of 43.5 (35.0-51.0) and 90.8 (87.8-93.5), respectively. Using this cut off point, 22 (out of 38) unreported exacerbations were detected while 39 stable patients would have been false positively 'contacted'.
Weekly CCQ assessment is a promising, low burden method to detect unreported exacerbations. Further research is needed to validate discriminative performance and practical implications of the CCQ in detecting exacerbations in daily care.
PMCID: PMC2949819  PMID: 20846428
19.  Action Plan to enhance self-management and early detection of exacerbations in COPD patients; a multicenter RCT 
Early detection of exacerbations by COPD patients initiating prompt interventions has shown to be clinically relevant. Until now, research failed to identify the effectiveness of a written individualized Action Plan (AP) to achieve this.
The current multicenter, single-blind RCT with a follow-up period of 6 months, evaluates the hypothesis that individualized AP's reduce exacerbation recovery time. Patients are included from regular respiratory nurse clinics and allocated to either usual care or the AP intervention. The AP provides individualized treatment prescriptions (pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical) related to a color coded symptom status (reinforcement at 1 and 4 months). Although usually not possible in self-management trials, we ensured blinding of patients, using a modified informed consent procedure in which patients give consent to postponed information. Exacerbations in both study arms are defined using the Anthonisen symptom diary-card algorithm. The Clinical COPD Questionnaire (CCQ) is assessed every 3-days. CCQ-recovery time of an exacerbation is the primary study outcome. Additionally, healthcare utilization, anxiety, depression, treatment delay, and self-efficacy are assessed at baseline and 6 months. We aim at including 245 COPD patients from 7 hospitals and 5 general practices to capture the a-priori sample size of at least 73 exacerbations per study arm.
This RCT identifies if an AP is an effective component of self-management in patients with COPD and clearly differentiates from existing studies in its design, outcome measures and generalizability of the results considering that the study is carried out in multiple sites including general practices.
Trial Registration
PMCID: PMC2805602  PMID: 20040088
20.  Incidence and determinants of moderate COPD (GOLD II) in male smokers aged 40–65 years: 5-year follow up 
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major health problem with an estimated prevalence of 10–15% among smokers. The incidence of moderate COPD, as defined by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), is largely unknown.
To determine the cumulative incidence of moderate COPD (forced expiratory volume in 1 second/forced vital capacity ratio [FEV1/FVC] <0.7 and FEV1 <80% predicted) and its association with patient characteristics in a cohort of male smokers.
Prospective cohort study.
The city of IJsselstein, a small town in the Netherlands.
Smokers aged 40–65 years who were registered with local GPs, participated in a study to identify undetected COPD. Baseline measurements were taken in 1998 of 399 smokers with normal spirometry (n = 292) or mild COPD (FEV1/FVC <0.7 and FEV1 ≥80% predicted, n = 107) and follow-up measurements were conducted in 2003.
After a mean follow-up of 5.2 years, 33 participants developed moderate COPD (GOLD II). This showed an estimated cumulative incidence of 8.3% (95% CI = 5.8 to 11.4) and a mean annual incidence of 1.6%. No participant developed severe airflow obstruction. The risk of developing moderate COPD in smokers with baseline mild COPD (GOLD I) was five times higher than in those with baseline normal spirometry (one in five versus one in 25).
In a cohort of middle-aged male smokers, the estimated cumulative incidence of moderate COPD (GOLD II) over 5 years was relatively high (8.3%). Age, childhood smoking, cough, and one or more GP contacts for lower respiratory tract problems were independently associated with incident moderate COPD.
PMCID: PMC1876630  PMID: 16953996
incidence; middle-age; moderate COPD; patient characteristics; smokers
21.  Distinguishing patterns in the dynamics of long-term medication use by Markov analysis: beyond persistence 
In order to accurately distinguish gaps of varying length in drug treatment for chronic conditions from discontinuation without resuming therapy, short-term observation does not suffice. Thus, the use of inhalation corticosteroids (ICS) in the long-term, during a ten-year period is investigated. To describe medication use as a continuum, taking into account the timeliness and consistency of refilling, a Markov model is proposed.
Patients, that filled at least one prescription in 1993, were selected from the PHARMO medical record linkage system (RLS) containing >95% prescription dispensings per patient originating from community pharmacy records of 6 medium-sized cities in the Netherlands.
The probabilities of continuous use, the refilling of at least one ICS prescription in each year of follow-up, and medication free periods were assessed by Markov analysis. Stratified analysis according to new use was performed.
The transition probabilities of the refilling of at least one ICS prescription in the subsequent year of follow-up, were assessed for each year of follow-up and for the total study period.
The change of transition probabilities in time was evaluated, e.g. the probability of continuing ICS use of starters in the first two years (51%) of follow-up increased to more than 70% in the following years. The probabilities of different patterns of medication use were assessed: continuous use (7.7%), cumulative medication gaps (1–8 years 69.1%) and discontinuing (23.2%) during ten-year follow-up for new users. New users had lower probability of continuous use (7.7%) and more variability in ICS refill patterns than previous users (56%).
In addition to well-established methods in epidemiology to ascertain compliance and persistence, a Markov model could be useful to further specify the variety of possible patterns of medication use within the continuum of adherence. This Markov model describes variation in behaviour and patterns of ICS use and could also be useful to investigate continuous use of other drugs applied in chronic diseases.
PMCID: PMC1959200  PMID: 17620145
22.  Effectiveness of early switch from intravenous to oral antibiotics in severe community acquired pneumonia: multicentre randomised trial 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2006;333(7580):1193.
Objectives To compare the effectiveness of an early switch to oral antibiotics with the standard 7 day course of intravenous antibiotics in severe community acquired pneumonia.
Design Multicentre randomised controlled trial.
Setting Five teaching hospitals and 2 university medical centres in the Netherlands.
Participants 302 patients in non-intensive care wards with severe community acquired pneumonia. 265 patients fulfilled the study requirements.
Intervention Three days of treatment with intravenous antibiotics followed, when clinically stable, by oral antibiotics or by 7 days of intravenous antibiotics.
Main outcome measures Clinical cure and length of hospital stay.
Results 302 patients were randomised (mean age 69.5 (standard deviation 14.0), mean pneumonia severity score 112.7 (26.0)). 37 patients were excluded from analysis because of early dropout before day 3, leaving 265 patients for intention to treat analysis. Mortality at day 28 was 4% in the intervention group and 6% in the control group (mean difference 2%, 95% confidence interval −3% to 8%). Clinical cure was 83% in the intervention group and 85% in the control group (2%, −7% to 10%). Duration of intravenous treatment and length of hospital stay were reduced in the intervention group, with mean differences of 3.4 days (3.6 (1.5) v 7.0 (2.0) days; 2.8 to 3.9) and 1.9 days (9.6 (5.0) v 11.5 (4.9) days; 0.6 to 3.2), respectively.
Conclusions Early switch from intravenous to oral antibiotics in patients with severe community acquired pneumonia is safe and decreases length of hospital stay by 2 days.
Trial registration Clinical Trials NCT00273676.
PMCID: PMC1693658  PMID: 17090560
23.  Recognising heart failure in elderly patients with stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in primary care: cross sectional diagnostic study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2005;331(7529):1379.
Objective To determine which clinical variables provide diagnostic information in recognising heart failure in primary care patients with stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and whether easily available tests provide added diagnostic information.
Design Cross sectional diagnostic study.
Setting 51 primary care practices.
Participants 1186 patients aged ≥ 65 years with COPD diagnosed by their general practitioner who did not have a diagnosis of heart failure confirmed by a cardiologist.
Main outcome measures Independent diagnostic variables for concomitant heart failure in primary care patients with stable COPD.
Results 405 patients (34% of eligible patients) underwent a systematic diagnostic investigation, which resulted in 83 (20.5%) receiving a new diagnosis of concomitant heart failure. Independent clinical variables for concomitant heart failure were a history of ischaemic heart disease, high body mass index, laterally displaced apex beat, and raised heart rate (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC area) 0.70, 95% confidence interval 0.64 to 0.76). Addition of measurement of N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) to the reduced “clinical model” had the largest added diagnostic value, with a significant increase of the ROC area to 0.77 (0.71 to 0.83), followed by electrocardiography (0.75, 0.69 to 0.81). C reactive protein and chest radiography had limited added value. A simplified diagnostic model consisting of the four independent clinical variables plus NT-proBNP and electrocardiography was developed.
Conclusions A limited number of items easily available from history and physical examination, with addition of NT-proBNP and electrocardiography, can help general practitioners to identify concomitant heart failure in individual patients with stable COPD.
PMCID: PMC1309648  PMID: 16321994
24.  FKHR-L1 can act as a critical effector of cell death induced by cytokine withdrawal 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2002;156(3):531-542.
Survival signals elicited by cytokines include the activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), which in turn promotes the activation of protein kinase B (PKB). Recently, PKB has been demonstrated to phosphorylate and inactivate forkhead transcription factor FKHR-L1, a potent inducer of apoptosis. To explore the mechanisms underlying the induction of apoptosis after cytokine withdrawal or FKHR-L1 activation, we used a cell line in which FKHR-L1 activity could be specifically induced. Both cytokine withdrawal and FKHR-L1 activation induced apoptosis, which was preceded by an upregulation in p27KIP1 and a concomitant decrease in cells entering the cell cycle. Induction of apoptosis by both cytokine withdrawal and activation of FKHR-L1 correlated with the disruption of mitochondrial membrane integrity and cytochrome c release. This was preceded by upregulation of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member Bim. Ectopic expression of an inhibitory mutant of FKHR-L1 substantially reduced the levels of apoptosis observed after cytokine withdrawal. Activation of PKB alone was sufficient to promote cell survival, as measured by maintenance of mitochondrial integrity and the resultant inhibition of effector caspases. Furthermore, hematopoietic stem cells isolated from Bim−/− mice exhibited reduced levels of apoptosis upon inhibition of PI3K/PKB signaling.
These data demonstrate that activation of FKHR-L1 alone can recapitulate all known elements of the apoptotic program normally induced by cytokine withdrawal. Thus PI3K/PKB–mediated inhibition of this transcription factor likely provides an important mechanism by which survival factors act to prevent programmed cell death.
PMCID: PMC2173339  PMID: 11815629
apoptosis; cytokine; mitochondria; PI3K; forkhead
25.  Forkhead Transcription Factor FKHR-L1 Modulates Cytokine-Dependent Transcriptional Regulation of p27KIP1 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2000;20(24):9138-9148.
Interleukin-3 (IL-3), IL-5, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor regulate the survival, proliferation, and differentiation of hematopoietic lineages. Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) has been implicated in the regulation of these processes. Here we investigate the molecular mechanism by which PI3K regulates cytokine-mediated proliferation and survival in the murine pre-B-cell line Ba/F3. IL-3 was found to repress the expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27KIP1 through activation of PI3K, and this occurs at the level of transcription. This transcriptional regulation occurs through modulation of the forkhead transcription factor FKHR-L1, and IL-3 inhibited FKHR-L1 activity in a PI3K-dependent manner. We have generated Ba/F3 cell lines expressing a tamoxifen-inducible active FKHR-L1 mutant [FKHR-L1(A3):ER*]. Tamoxifen-mediated activation of FKHR-L1(A3):ER* resulted in a striking increase in p27KIP1 promoter activity and mRNA and protein levels as well as induction of the apoptotic program. The level of p27KIP1 appears to be critical in the regulation of cell survival since mere ectopic expression of p27KIP1 was sufficient to induce Ba/F3 apoptosis. Moreover, cell survival was increased in cytokine-starved bone marrow-derived stem cells from p27KIP1 null-mutant mice compared to that in cells from wild-type mice. Taken together, these observations indicate that inhibition of p27KIP1 transcription through PI3K-induced FKHR-L1 phosphorylation provides a novel mechanism of regulating cytokine-mediated survival and proliferation.
PMCID: PMC102172  PMID: 11094066

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