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1.  Biomarker Surrogates Do Not Accurately Predict Sputum Eosinophils and Neutrophils in Asthma 
Sputum eosinophils (Eos) are a strong predictor of airway inflammation, exacerbations, and aid asthma management, whereas sputum neutrophils (Neu) indicate a different severe asthma phenotype, potentially less responsive to TH2-targeted therapy. Variables such as blood Eos, total IgE, fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) or FEV1% predicted, may predict airway Eos, while age, FEV1%predicted, or blood Neu may predict sputum Neu. Availability and ease of measurement are useful characteristics, but accuracy in predicting airway Eos and Neu, individually or combined, is not established.
To determine whether blood Eos, FeNO, and IgE accurately predict sputum eosinophils, and age, FEV1% predicted, and blood Neu accurately predict sputum neutrophils (Neu).
Subjects in the Wake Forest Severe Asthma Research Program (N=328) were characterized by blood and sputum cells, healthcare utilization, lung function, FeNO, and IgE. Multiple analytical techniques were utilized.
Despite significant association with sputum Eos, blood Eos, FeNO and total IgE did not accurately predict sputum Eos, and combinations of these variables failed to improve prediction. Age, FEV1%predicted and blood Neu were similarly unsatisfactory for prediction of sputum Neu. Factor analysis and stepwise selection found FeNO, IgE and FEV1% predicted, but not blood Eos, correctly predicted 69% of sputum Eos
Despite statistically significant associations FeNO, IgE, blood Eos and Neu, FEV1%predicted, and age are poor surrogates, separately and combined, for accurately predicting sputum eosinophils and neutrophils.
PMCID: PMC3704048  PMID: 23706399
asthma phenotypes; sputum eosinophils and neutrophils; inflammatory biomarker surrogates; TH2 biomarkers; fractional exhaled nitric oxide
This is the first large pharmacogenetic investigation of the inflammatory IL-4/IL-13 pathway in patients with moderate-to-severe asthma. We analyzed genomic DNA from participants in a 12-week placebo-controlled efficacy trial of pitrakinra (1, 3, or 10 mg twice daily), a novel IL-4/IL-13 pathway antagonist ( NCT00801853).
The primary hypothesis for this analysis is that amino acid changes in the 3′ end of the IL-4 receptor α gene (IL4RA) or closely proximal variants would predict reductions in asthma exacerbations for subjects randomized to pitrakinra therapy.
Nineteen IL4RA single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were tested in 407 non-Hispanic white subjects for association with the primary clinical end point of asthma exacerbations and changes in secondary end points for asthma symptom scores.
The most consistent pharmacogenetic associations were observed for the correlated tagging SNPs rs8832 and rs1029489 in the IL4RA 3′ untranslated and proximal regions, respectively. Subjects homozygous for the rs8832 common G allele randomized to pitrakinra (placebo group nonsignificant) had decreased asthma exacerbations and decreased nocturnal awakenings and activities limited by asthma. There was also a significant pitrakinra dose-response relationship (placebo/1 mg/3 mg/10 mg) for exacerbations in subjects homozygous for the common allele in rs1029489 (P = .005) and rs8832 (P = .009) and the intronic SNPs rs3024585, rs3024622, and rs4787956 (P = .03).
This study demonstrates a significant pharmacogenetic interaction between anti–IL-4 receptor a therapy and IL4RA gene variation, identifying an asthma subgroup that is more responsive to therapy with this antagonist.
PMCID: PMC3992925  PMID: 22541248
Pharmacogenetics; pitrakinra; IL-4 receptor; asthma therapy; IL-4 receptor antagonist
Several chromosomal regions have been identified using family-based linkage analysis to contain genes contributing to the development of asthma and allergic disorders. One of these regions, chromosome 2q32-q33, contains a gene cluster containing CFLAR, CASP10 and CASP8. These genes regulate the extrinsic apoptosis pathway utilized by several types of immune and structural cells that have been implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma.
To assess the role of genetic variation in CFLAR, CASP10 and CASP8 in asthma and related phenotypes in individuals of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
We tested 26 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the CFLAR, CASP10 and CASP8 gene cluster for association with asthma and related phenotypes in African-American, non-Hispanic whites, and Hispanic case–control populations (cases, N = 517, controls, N = 644).
Five CASP10 SNPS were associated with forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1)/forced expiration volume capacity (FVC) in the African-American subjects with asthma (P = 0.0009–0.047). Nine SNPs, seven in CASP10 and two in CASP8, were also associated with the degree of bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) (as determined by PC20) in race-specific analysis, predominately in the Non-Hispanic white cases. Two SNPs, rs6750157 in CASP10 and rs1045485 in CASP8 were modestly associated with asthma in the African-American (P = 0.025) and Hispanic (P = 0.033) populations, respectively.
These data suggest a role for CASP10 as a potential modifier of the asthma phenotype, specifically with measures of airway obstruction and BHR.
PMCID: PMC3979622  PMID: 18823309
asthma; bronchial hyperresponsiveness; CASP10; chromosome 2q; FEV1/FVC
Rationale: Increasing body mass index (BMI) has been associated with less fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO). This may be explained by an increase in the concentration of asymmetric dimethyl arginine (ADMA) relative to l-arginine, which can lead to greater nitric oxide synthase uncoupling.
Objectives: To compare this mechanism across age of asthma onset groups and determine its association with asthma morbidity and lung function.
Methods: Cross-sectional study of participants from the Severe Asthma Research Program, across early- (<12 yr) and late- (>12 yr) onset asthma phenotypes.
Measurements and Main Results: Subjects with late-onset asthma had a higher median plasma ADMA level (0.48 μM, [interquartile range (IQR), 0.35–0.7] compared with early onset, 0.37 μM [IQR, 0.29–0.59], P = 0.01) and lower median plasma l-arginine (late onset, 52.3 [IQR, 43–61] compared with early onset, 51 μM [IQR 39–66]; P = 0.02). The log of plasma l-arginine/ADMA was inversely correlated with BMI in the late- (r = −0.4, P = 0.0006) in contrast to the early-onset phenotype (r = −0.2, P = 0.07). Although FeNO was inversely associated with BMI in the late-onset phenotype (P = 0.02), the relationship was lost after adjusting for l-arginine/ADMA. Also in this phenotype, a reduced l-arginine/ADMA was associated with less IgE, increased respiratory symptoms, lower lung volumes, and worse asthma quality of life.
Conclusions: In late-onset asthma phenotype, plasma ratios of l-arginine to ADMA may explain the inverse relationship of BMI to FeNO. In addition, these lower l-arginine/ADMA ratios are associated with reduced lung function and increased respiratory symptom frequency, suggesting a role in the pathobiology of the late-onset phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3570651  PMID: 23204252
asthma; obesity; age of asthma onset; ADMA; arginine
PMCID: PMC3772526  PMID: 20920778
IL4RA; genetics; pharmacogenetics; interleukin 4; interleukin 13; interleukin 4 receptor; allergen; asthma therapy
No consensus exists for adjusting inhaled corticosteroid therapy in patients with asthma. Approaches include adjustment at outpatient visits guided by physician assessment of asthma control (symptoms, rescue therapy, pulmonary function), based on exhaled nitric oxide, or on a day-to-day basis guided by symptoms.
To determine if adjustment of inhaled corticosteroid therapy based on exhaled nitric oxide or day-to-day symptoms is superior to guideline-informed, physician assessment–based adjustment in preventing treatment failure in adults with mild to moderate asthma.
Design, Setting, and Participants
A randomized, parallel, 3-group, placebo-controlled, multiply-blinded trial of 342 adults with mild to moderate asthma controlled by low-dose inhaled corticosteroid therapy (n=114 assigned to physician assessment–based adjustment [101 completed], n=115 to biomarker-based [exhaled nitric oxide] adjustment [92 completed], and n=113 to symptom-based adjustment [97 completed]), the Best Adjustment Strategy for Asthma in the Long Term (BASALT) trial was conducted by the Asthma Clinical Research Network at 10 academic medical centers in the United States for 9 months between June 2007 and July 2010.
For physician assessment–based adjustment and biomarker-based (exhaled nitric oxide) adjustment, the dose of inhaled corticosteroids was adjusted every 6 weeks; for symptom-based adjustment, inhaled corticosteroids were taken with each albuterol rescue use.
Main Outcome Measure
The primary outcome was time to treatment failure.
There were no significant differences in time to treatment failure. The 9-month Kaplan-Meier failure rates were 22% (97.5% CI, 14%-33%; 24 events) for physician assessment–based adjustment, 20% (97.5% CI, 13%-30%; 21 events) for biomarker-based adjustment, and 15% (97.5% CI, 9%-25%; 16 events) for symptom-based adjustment. The hazard ratio for physician assessment–based adjustment vs biomarker-based adjustment was 1.2 (97.5% CI, 0.6-2.3). The hazard ratio for physician assessment–based adjustment vs symptom-based adjustment was 1.6 (97.5% CI, 0.8-3.3).
Among adults with mild to moderate persistent asthma controlled with low-dose inhaled corticosteroid therapy, the use of either biomarker-based or symptom-based adjustment of inhaled corticosteroids was not superior to physician assessment–based adjustment of inhaled corticosteroids in time to treatment failure.
Trial Registration Identifier: NCT00495157
PMCID: PMC3697088  PMID: 22968888
Clinics in chest medicine  2012;33(3):431-443.
The interaction of genes and environmental exposures influences the development of asthma and determines asthma severity. This review focuses on recent developments in genetic studies of asthma onset and progression. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are currently the most effective approach to study genetics of complex diseases. There have been two large meta-analyses of asthma susceptibility, GABRIEL and EVE, which identified the same four chromosomal regions, many of which had also been identified in previous GWAS: loci in the ORMDL3 region of 17q21, IL1RL/IL18R genes on chromosome 2q, the TSLP gene region on 5q22, and IL33 on chromosome 9p24. These regions were associated with asthma in individuals of different ethnic backgrounds. EVE also identified a novel asthma susceptibility locus, PYHIN1, in individuals of African descent. Genome-wide screens for asthma susceptibility in Asian adults and children both identified genetic variants in the major histocompatiblity complex gene region (HLA region) on chromosome 6p21 as highly associated with asthma risk. This locus was one of the first candidate genes identified for asthma and has been a significant predictor of asthma risk in several GWAS.
There is also a need to understand asthma disease heterogeneity as different phenotypes may reflect several pathogenic pathways. Genes that are associated with phenotypes including lung function, biomarker levels and asthma therapeutic responses provide insight into mechanisms of asthma severity progression. For example, the HHIP gene is a significant predictor of pulmonary function changes in asthma and in the normal population. A joint model of risk variants in lung function genes were highly associated with lower FEV1 and increased asthma severity criteria. In addition, a genome-wide screen to discover pharmacogenetic associations related to response to inhaled glucocorticoids identified two correlated SNPs in the GLCCI1 gene that confer a significant lung function response to this asthma therapy.
Future genetic studies for asthma susceptibility and severity will incorporate exome or whole-genome sequencing to identify common and rare genetic variants. Using these variants identified in comprehensively phenotyped asthmatics will lead to the development of personalized therapy in individuals with asthma.
PMCID: PMC3431509  PMID: 22929093
Asthma; genetics; susceptibility; severity; personalized medicine; therapy; lung function
Patients with severe or difficult-to-treat asthma are an understudied population but account for considerable asthma morbidity, mortality, and costs. The Epidemiology and Natural History of Asthma: Outcomes and Treatment Regimens (TENOR) study was a large, 3-year, multicenter, observational cohort study of 4756 patients (n = 3489 adults ≥18 years of age, n = 497 adolescents 13-17 years of age, and n = 770 children 6-12 years of age) with severe or difficult-to-treat asthma. TENOR's primary objective was to characterize the natural history of disease in this cohort. Data assessed semiannually and annually included demographics, medical history, comorbidities, asthma control, asthma-related health care use, medication use, lung function, IgE levels, self-reported asthma triggers, and asthma-related quality of life. We highlight the key findings and clinical implications from more than 25 peer-reviewed TENOR publications. Regardless of age, patients with severe or difficult-to-treat asthma demonstrated high rates of health care use and substantial asthma burden despite receiving multiple long-term controller medications. Recent exacerbation history was the strongest predictor of future asthma exacerbations. Uncontrolled asthma, as defined by the 2007 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines’ impairment domain, was highly prevalent and predictive of future asthma exacerbations; this assessment can be used to identify high-risk patients. IgE and allergen sensitization played a role in the majority of severe or difficult-to-treat asthmatic patients.
PMCID: PMC3622643  PMID: 22694932
TENOR; severe or difficult-to-treat asthma; asthma control; asthma exacerbations; burden; medication; quality of life; allergy; IgE
Asthma is a complex genetic disease with multiple genetic and environmental determinants contributing to the observed variability in response to common anti-asthma therapies. Asthma pharmacogenetic research has focused on multiple candidate genes including the β2-adrenergic receptor gene (ADRβ2) and its effect on individual responses to beta agonist therapy. At present, knowledge about the effects of ADRβ2 variation on therapeutic responses is evolving and should not alter current Asthma Guideline approaches consisting of the use of short acting beta agonists for as-needed symptom based therapy and the use of a regular long-acting beta agonist in combination with inhaled corticosteroid therapy for optimal control of asthma symptoms in those asthmatics who are not controlled on inhaled corticosteroid alone. This approach is based upon studies showing a consistent pharmacogenetic response to regular use of short acting beta agonists (SABA) and less consistent findings in studies evaluating long acting beta agonist (LABA). While emerging pharmacogenetic studies are provocative and should lead to functional approaches, conflicting data with responses to LABA therapy may be caused by factors that include small sample sizes of study populations and differences in experimental design that may limit the conclusions that may be drawn from these clinical trials at the present time.
PMCID: PMC2736101  PMID: 17996583
Chest  2013;144(4):1222-1229.
The combination of fluticasone furoate (FF), a novel inhaled corticosteroid (ICS), and vilanterol (VI), a long-acting β2 agonist, is under development as a once-daily treatment of asthma and COPD. The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy of FF/VI with fluticasone propionate (FP)/salmeterol (SAL) in patients with persistent asthma uncontrolled on a medium dose of ICS.
In a randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, parallel group study, 806 patients received FF/VI (100/25 μg, n = 403) once daily in the evening delivered through ELLIPTA (GlaxoSmithKline) dry powder inhaler, or FP/SAL (250/50 μg, n = 403) bid through DISKUS/ACCUHALER (GlaxoSmithKline). The primary efficacy measure was 0- to 24-h serial weighted mean (wm) FEV1 after 24 weeks of treatment.
Improvements from baseline in 0- to 24-h wmFEV1 were observed with both FF/VI (341 mL) and FP/SAL (377 mL); the adjusted mean treatment difference was not statistically significant (−37 mL; 95% CI, −88 to 15, P = 0.162). There were no differences between 0- to 4-h serial wmFEV1, trough FEV1, and asthma control and quality-of-life questionnaire scores. There was no difference in reported exacerbations between treatments. Both treatments were well tolerated, with no clinically relevant effect on urinary cortisol excretion or vital signs and no treatment-related serious adverse events.
The efficacy of once-daily FF/VI was similar to bid FP/SAL in improving lung function in patients with persistent asthma. No safety issues were identified.
Trial registry:; No.: NCT01147848; URL:
PMCID: PMC3787916  PMID: 23846316
11.  Severe Asthma 
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP) has characterized over the past 10 years 1,644 patients with asthma, including 583 individuals with severe asthma. SARP collaboration has led to a rapid recruitment of subjects and efficient sharing of samples among participating sites to conduct independent mechanistic investigations of severe asthma. Enrolled SARP subjects underwent detailed clinical, physiologic, genomic, and radiological evaluations. In addition, SARP investigators developed safe procedures for bronchoscopy in participants with asthma, including those with severe disease. SARP studies revealed that severe asthma is a heterogeneous disease with varying molecular, biochemical, and cellular inflammatory features and unique structure–function abnormalities. Priorities for future studies include recruitment of a larger number of subjects with severe asthma, including children, to allow further characterization of anatomic, physiologic, biochemical, and genetic factors related to severe disease in a longitudinal assessment to identify factors that modulate the natural history of severe asthma and provide mechanistic rationale for management strategies.
PMCID: PMC3297096  PMID: 22095547
asthma; remodeling; inflammation; bronchoscopy; imaging
Investigative bronchoscopy was performed in a subset of participants in the Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP) to gain insights into the pathobiology of severe disease. We evaluated the safety aspects of this procedure in this cohort with specific focus on patients with severe asthma.
To prospectively evaluate changes in lung function and the frequency of adverse events related to investigative bronchoscopy.
Bronchoscopy was performed using a common Manual of Procedures. A subset of very severe asthma was defined by severe airflow obstruction, chronic oral corticosteroid use and recent asthma exacerbations. Subjects were monitored for changes in lung function and contacted by telephone for 3 days after the procedure.
436 subjects underwent bronchoscopy (97 normal, 196 not severe, 102 severe and 41 very severe asthma). Nine subjects were evaluated in hospital settings after bronchoscopy; seven of these were respiratory related events. Recent Emergency Department visits, chronic oral corticosteroid use and a history of pneumonia were more frequent in subjects who had asthma exacerbations after bronchoscopy. The fall in FEV1 following bronchoscopy was similar in the severe compared to milder asthma group. Pre-bronchodilator FEV1 was the strongest predictor of change in FEV1 after bronchoscopy with larger decreases observed in subjects with better lung function.
Bronchoscopy in severe asthma subjects was well tolerated. Asthma exacerbations were rare and reduction in pulmonary function after the procedure was similar to subjects with less severe asthma. With proper precautions, investigative bronchoscopy can be performed safely in severe asthma.
PMCID: PMC3149754  PMID: 21496892
investigative bronchoscopy; safety; severe asthma; exacerbation
Studies of asthma phenotypes have identified obesity as a component of a group characterized by a high proportion of adult-onset asthmatics. However, whether age of asthma onset modifies the association between obesity and asthma is unknown.
From the Severe Asthma Project (SARP), we defined age of asthma onset as early (before 12 years of age) and late-onset (12 and higher). Comparisons of body mass index (BMI) categories were done within age of onset groups and obesity was also compared across these groups. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was done to evaluate the association between BMI categories with healthcare utilization and respiratory symptoms and multivariable linear regression for the association between duration of asthma and weight gain (BMI change/yr). An interaction between obesity and age of asthma onset was included in the multivariable analyses.
The study population consisted on 1,049 subjects of which the median age for asthma onset was 10 years (IQR 4 – 25); 48% were late-onset (≥ 12) and 52% were early-onset (<12). Compared to late-onset obese asthmatics, early-onset obese asthmatics had more airway obstruction, bronchial hyperresponsiveness, and higher OR of ever having 3 or more oral steroid tapers preceding/year or ICU admissions for asthma/preceding year (Interactions between obesity and age of asthma onset were respectively p=0.055 and p=0.02). In early-onset, but not in late-onset asthmatics, there was a significant association between increasing BMI and duration of asthma, after adjusting for confounders. The interaction between asthma duration and age of asthma onset was p < 0.01.
Asthmatics are differentially affected by obesity, based on whether they developed asthma early (<12 years) or later in life. These results highlight the need to understand obesity as a comorbidity that affects specific clinical phenotypes and not all asthma subjects alike.
PMCID: PMC3128802  PMID: 21624618
Severe; asthma; obesity; SARP
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):37.
Evidence suggests that variation in the length of the poly-C repeat in the 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) of the β2-adrenergic receptor gene (ADRB2) may contribute to interindividual variation in β-agonist response. However, methodology in previous studies limited the assessment of the effect of sequence variation in the context of poly-C repeat length. The objectives of this study were to design a novel genotyping method to fully characterize sequence variation in the ADRB2 3′UTR poly-C repeat in asthma patients treated with inhaled corticosteroid and long-acting β2-adrenergic agonist (ICS/LABA) combination therapy, and to analyze the effect of the poly-C repeat polymorphism on clinical response.
In 2,250 asthma patients randomized to treatment with budesonide/formoterol or fluticasone/salmeterol in a six-month study (AstraZeneca study code: SD-039-0735), sequence diversity in the ADRB2 poly-C repeat region was determined using a novel sequencing-based genotyping method. The relationship between the poly-C repeat polymorphism and the incidence of severe asthma exacerbations, and changes in pulmonary function and asthma symptoms from baseline to the average during the treatment period, were analyzed.
Poly-C repeat genotypes were assigned in 97% (2,192/2,250) of patients. Of the 13 different poly-C repeat alleles identified, six alleles occurred at a frequency of >5% in one or more population in this study. The repeat length of these six common alleles ranged from 10 to 14 nucleotides. Twelve poly-C repeat genotypes were observed at a frequency of >1%. No evidence of an association between poly-C repeat genotype and the incidence of severe asthma exacerbations was observed. Patients’ pulmonary function measurements improved and asthma symptoms declined when treated with ICS/LABA combination therapy regardless of poly-C repeat genotype.
The extensive sequence diversity present in the poly-C repeat region of the ADRB2 3′UTR did not predict therapeutic response to ICS/LABA therapy.
PMCID: PMC3441247  PMID: 22559839
Asthma; β2-agonist; Inhaled corticosteroid; Genotype; Polymorphism; β2-adrenergic receptor; 3′ untranslated region; Poly-C repeat
Rationale: β2-agonists, the most common treatment for asthma, have a wide interindividual variability in response, which is partially attributed to genetic factors. We previously identified single nucleotide polymorphisms in the arginase 1 (ARG1) gene, which are associated with β2-agonist bronchodilator response (BDR).
Objectives: To identify cis-acting haplotypes in the ARG1 locus that are associated with BDR in patients with asthma and regulate gene expression in vitro.
Methods: We resequenced ARG1 in 96 individuals and identified three common, 5′ haplotypes (denoted 1, 2, and 3). A haplotype-based association analysis of BDR was performed in three independent, adult asthma drug trial populations. Next, each haplotype was cloned into vectors containing a luciferase reporter gene and transfected into human airway epithelial cells (BEAS-2B) to ascertain its effect on gene expression.
Measurements and Main Results: BDR varied by haplotype in each of the three populations with asthma. Individuals with haplotype 1 were more likely to have higher BDR, compared to those with haplotypes 2 and 3, which is supported by odds ratios of 1.25 (95% confidence interval, 1.03–1.71) and 2.18 (95% confidence interval, 1.34–2.52), respectively. Luciferase expression was 50% greater in cells transfected with haplotype 1 compared to haplotypes 2 and 3.
Conclusions: The identified ARG1 haplotypes seem to alter BDR and differentially regulate gene expression with a concordance of decreased BDR and reporter activity from haplotypes 2 and 3. These findings may facilitate pharmacogenetic tests to predict individuals who may benefit from other therapeutic agents in addition to β2-agonists for optimal asthma management.
Clinical trial registered with (NCT00156819, NCT00046644, and NCT00073840).
PMCID: PMC3056223  PMID: 20851928
pharmacogenetics; asthma; β2-agonist
The World Allergy Organization Journal  2012;5(Suppl 2):S25-S26.
The T helper 2 (Th2) inflammatory pathway, including the Th2-activating cytokine interleukin 33 and its receptor interleukin 1 receptor-like 1 have been strongly implicated in asthma susceptibility (Moffatt MF, et al NEJM 2010). However, the role of Th2 pathway genetic variation in asthma progression and severity is not well understood. Our research group recently developed a clustering algorithm based on comprehensive phenotype information to assign subjects with asthma in the Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP) to 5 primary clusters; 3 of which represent increasing severe allergic asthma (Moore WC, et al AJRCCM, 2010). We hypothesized that common and potentially deleterious rare variation in this pathway would be associated with severe asthma based on SARP cluster designation.
To evaluate common variants (minor allele frequency or MAF >5%), 419 SARP non-Hispanic white participants with a cluster assignment were genotyped for 182 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in Th2 pathway genes using whole-genome SNP data. Individual SNPs and a cumulative model of significant SNPs were evaluated using contingency tables with a chi-square test for trend and ordinal regression models adjusted for age, sex, and principal components. Rare (MAF <5%) amino acid changes and splice site alterations in this pathway were tested for association with asthma severity outcomes in 20 SARP subjects with whole exome sequence data.
Individual Th2 pathway variants were associated with overall SARP cluster assignment, and allergic clusters of increasing severity (1, 2, and 4), including GATA3 polymorphism rs1244186 (P = 0.005). In an 18-SNP additive model, an increasing number of Th2 pathway risk genotypes were highly associated with severe allergic asthma (P = 3.9 × 10−6). For example, in cluster 4, the percentage of subjects with at least 9 risk genotypes was 83% compared to 35% in cluster 1. Additionally, there was evidence that subjects with rare variants in this pathway were more likely to report allergy symptoms (P = 0.006), especially in the fall (P = 0.003), compared to subjects with no rare variants.
Common Th2 pathway variants predict an increased likelihood of severe allergic asthma and rare variants were associated with increased seasonal allergy symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3512652
Interleukin 6 (IL6) belongs to a family of cytokines with both pro- and anti-inflammatory properties. The functional relationship between IL6 signaling and airway disease has not be well characterized; however, IL6 expression is increased during lung inflammation and injury. In this study, serum IL6 and soluble IL6R levels were assessed in non-Hispanic whites with asthma from the Severe Asthma Research Program. Correlations between serum IL6 and IL6R levels, lung function, phenotypic asthma clusters, and asthma severity were evaluated.
Serum IL6 and soluble IL6R was measured in 149 subjects with mild to severe asthma. Serum sIL6R levels were measured using the sIL-6R DuoSet (R&D Systems, Minneapolis, MN) ELISA kit and reported as ng/ml. Serum IL6 measurements were determined using the IL-6 ELISA kit (R&D Systems, Minneapolis, MN) and reported as pg/ml. Serum IL6 and sIL6R measurements were transformed to normalize distribution. The continuous variables analyzed included: % predicted FEV1 [ppFEV1], % predicted FVC [ppFVC], and FEV1/FVC. Serum samples were collected at Wake Forest. Phenotypic asthma clusters were derived as previously described (Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010;181:315–323).
Elevated serum IL6 was associated with lower ppFEV1 (P = 0.02) and lower ppFVC (P = 0.003), while elevated serum soluble IL6R was associated with lower ppFEV1 (P = 0.02) and lower ppFVC (P = 0.008). Increasing trends in serum IL6 were observed in atopic asthma Clusters 2 and 4 and the later onset fixed airways obstruction Cluster 5. The highest IL6 serum levels were observed in Cluster 3 characterized has having late onset asthma and elevated BMI. Serum IL6 levels were elevated in subjects with severe asthma (log IL6 = 0.33; N = 25) compared to subjects with mild/moderate asthma (log IL6 = 0.16; N = 69).
Serum IL6 and sIL6R levels are elevated in non-Hispanic white asthma subjects with lower lung function. Serum IL6 and sIL6R are potentially important biomarkers that may distinguish between non-severe and severe asthma and between atopic asthma Clusters.
PMCID: PMC3513110
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):160.
Inhaled corticosteroids are the recommended first-line treatment for asthma but adherence to therapy is suboptimal. The objectives of this study were to compare the efficacy and safety of once-daily (OD) evening and twice-daily (BD) regimens of the novel inhaled corticosteroid fluticasone furoate (FF) in asthma patients.
Patients with moderate asthma (age ≥ 12 years; pre-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) 40-85% predicted; FEV1 reversibility of ≥ 12% and ≥ 200 ml) were randomized to FF or fluticasone propionate (FP) regimens in a double-blind, crossover study. Patients were not permitted to have used any ICS for ≥ 8 weeks prior to enrolment and subsequently received doses of FF or FP 200 μg OD, FF or FP 100 μg BD and matching placebo by inhalation for 28 days each. Primary endpoint was Day 28 evening pre-dose (trough) FEV1; non-inferiority of FF 200 μg OD and FF 100 μg BD was assessed, as was superiority of all active treatment relative to placebo. Adverse events (AEs) and 24-hour urinary cortisol excretion were assessed.
The intent-to-treat population comprised 147 (FF) and 43 (FP) patients. On Day 28, pre-dose FEV1 showed FF 200 μg OD to be non-inferior (pre-defined limit -110 ml) to FF 100 μg BD (mean treatment difference 11 ml; 95% CI: -35 to +56 ml); all FF and FP regimens were significantly superior to placebo (p ≤ 0.02). AEs were similar to placebo; no serious AEs were reported. Urinary cortisol excretion at Day 28 for FF was lower than placebo (ratios: 200 μg OD, 0.75; 100 μg BD, 0.84; p ≤ 0.02).
FF 200 μg OD in the evening is an efficacious and well tolerated treatment for asthma patients and is not inferior to the same total BD dose.
Trial registration; NCT00766090.
PMCID: PMC3282675  PMID: 22188590
Asthma; fluticasone furoate; inhaled corticosteroid; once daily; efficacy; safety
Indacaterol is an inhaled, once-daily long-acting β2-agonist bronchodilator for regular use in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As indacaterol is the first once-daily β2-agonist to be developed, it is relevant to evaluate its bronchodilator efficacy, safety, and tolerability.
Data were pooled from three randomized, double-blind, clinical studies in patients with moderate-to-severe COPD treated with indacaterol 150 μg qd (n = 627) or placebo (n = 1021). Bronchodilator efficacy was assessed as trough (24-hour post-dose) forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) after 12 weeks (primary endpoint in individual studies) and FEV1 measured serially post-dose. Rescue use of albuterol was monitored.
At week 12, indacaterol increased trough FEV1 by 160 mL compared with placebo (P < 0.001), exceeding the 120 mL level prespecified as clinically important. FEV1 during the first 12-hour post-dose at week 12 averaged 210 mL higher with indacaterol than with placebo (P < 0.001). Patients receiving indacaterol recorded 53% of days without use of rescue albuterol, compared with 38% of days in the placebo group (P < 0.001). Adverse events (mostly mild or moderate) were reported for 52% and 46% of patients receiving indacaterol and placebo, respectively, and serious adverse events for 4% and 5%. Worsening of COPD was the most frequent adverse event (10% indacaterol; 15% placebo). Indacaterol had little effect on pulse or blood pressure or measures of systemic β2-adrenoceptor activity (blood glucose, serum potassium, and corrected QT interval).
Indacaterol was an effective bronchodilator and was well tolerated, with a good safety profile over 12 weeks of treatment. It should prove a useful treatment for patients with moderate-to-severe COPD.
PMCID: PMC3186741  PMID: 22003288
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; tolerability; inhaled corticosteroids
Patients with severe asthma have increased granulocytes in their sputum compared to patients with mild to moderate asthma.
We hypothesized that inflammatory granulocytes in sputum may identify specific asthma severity phenotypes and are associated with different patterns of inflammatory proteins in sputum supernatants.
This hypothesis was tested in 242 asthmatics enrolled in the Severe Asthma Research Program who provided sputum samples for cell count, differential cell determinations, cell lysates for Western blot, and supernatant analyses by inflammatory protein microarrays and ELISAs. ANOVA and multiple linear regression models tested mediator associations.
Stratified by sputum granulocytes, < or ≥2%eosinophils and < or ≥40%neutrophils, subjects with both increased eosinophils and neutrophils had the lowest lung function, increased symptoms and healthcare utilization. Subjects with elevated eosinophils with or without increased neutrophils had significantly increased FeNO, serum eosinophils and greater frequency of daily β-agonist use. Microarray data, stratified by granulocytes revealed 25–28 inflammatory proteins increased >2-fold in sputa with ≥40% neutrophils. Microarray analyses stratified by severity of asthma, identified 6–9 proteins increased >2-fold in sputa in subjects with severe asthma compared to nonsevere asthma. ELISA data, stratified by sputum granulocytes, showed significant increases in BDNF, IL-1β, and MIP-3α/CCL20 for those with ≥40%neutrophils; these mediators demonstrated positive associations with neutrophil counts.
Combined increased sputum eosinophils and neutrophils identified asthmatics with the lowest lung function and worse asthma control, increased symptoms and healthcare requirements. Inflammatory protein analyses of sputum supernatants found novel mediators increased in asthmatics, predominantly associated with increased sputum neutrophils.
PMCID: PMC2878277  PMID: 20398920
asthma phenotypes; protein microarrays; BDNF; CXCL13; TNFSF14; CCL20; CCL18
Asthma is a heterogeneous disease that is caused by the interaction of genetic susceptibility with environmental influences. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) represent a powerful approach to investigate the association of DNA variants with disease susceptibility. To date, few GWAS for asthma have been reported.
GWAS was performed on a population of severe or difficult-to-treat asthmatics to identify genes that are involved in the pathogenesis of asthma.
292,443 SNPs were tested for association with asthma in 473 TENOR cases and 1,892 Illumina general population controls. Asthma-related quantitative traits (total serum IgE, FEV1, FVC, and FEV1/FVC) were also tested in identified candidate regions in 473 TENOR cases and 363 phenotyped controls without a history of asthma to further analyze GWAS results. Imputation was performed in identified candidate regions for analysis with denser SNP coverage.
Multiple SNPs in the RAD50-IL13 region on chromosome 5q31.1 were associated with asthma: rs2244012 in intron 2 of RAD50 (P = 3.04E-07). The HLA-DR/DQ region on chromosome 6p21.3 was also associated with asthma: rs1063355 in the 3’ UTR of HLA-DQB1 (P = 9.55E-06). Imputation identified several significant SNPs in the TH2 locus control region (LCR) 3’ of RAD50. Imputation also identified a more significant SNP, rs3998159 (P = 1.45E-06), between HLA-DQB1 and HLA-DQA2.
This GWAS confirmed the important role of TH2 cytokine and antigen presentation genes in asthma at a genome-wide level and the importance of additional investigation of these two regions to delineate their structural complexity and biologic function in the development of asthma.
PMCID: PMC2824608  PMID: 20159242
Asthma; GWAS; RAD50; IL13; HLA-DQB1; TENOR
Asthma is a heterogeneous clinical disorder. Methods for objective identification of disease subtypes will focus on clinical interventions and help identify causative pathways. Few studies have explored phenotypes at a molecular level.
We sought to discriminate asthma phenotypes based on cytokine profiles in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples from mild-moderate and severe asthmatics.
Twenty five cytokines were measured in BAL samples of 84 patients (41 severe, 43 mild-moderate) using bead-based multiplex immunoassays. The normalized data were subjected to statistical and informatics analysis.
Four groups of asthmatic profiles could be identified on the basis of unsupervised analysis (hierarchical clustering) that were independent of treatment. One group, enriched in severe asthmatics, showed differences in BAL cellular content, reductions in baseline pulmonary function and enhanced response to methacholine provocation. Ten cytokines were identified that accurately predicted this group. Classification methods for predicting methacholine sensitivity were developed. The best model analysis predicted hyper-responders (HR) with 88% accuracy in 10 trials using a 10-fold cross validation. The cytokines that contributed to this model were IL-2, IL-4, and IL-5. Based on this classifier, three distinct HR Classes were identified that varied in BAL eosinophil count and PC20 methacholine.
Cytokine expression patterns in BAL can be used to identify distinct types of asthma and identify distinct subsets of methacholine HR. Further biomarker discovery in BAL may be informative.
PMCID: PMC3019566  PMID: 18206505
Asthma; inflammation; cytokines; phenotypes; ELISA; hierarchical clustering; bioinformatics; class discovery
Respiratory Research  2010;11(1):103.
The "Th2 hypothesis for asthma" asserts that an increased ratio of Th2:Th1 cytokine production plays an important pathogenic role in asthma. Although widely embraced, the hypothesis has been challenged by various empirical observations and has been described as overly simplistic. We sought to establish whether CD3+CD28-mediated and antigen-independent accumulation of type 1 and type 2 T cells differs significantly between nonasthmatic and asthmatic populations.
An ex vivo system was used to characterize the regulation of IFN-γ-producing (type 1) and IL-13-producing (type 2) T cell accumulation in response to CD3+CD28 and IL-2 stimulation by flow cytometry.
IL-13-producing T cells increased in greater numbers in response to antigen-independent stimulation in peripheral blood lymphocytes from female atopic asthmatic subjects compared with male asthmatics and both male and female atopic non-asthmatic subjects. IFN-γ+ T cells increased in greater numbers in response to either antigen-independent or CD3+CD28-mediated stimulation in peripheral blood lymphocytes from atopic asthmatic subjects compared to non-asthmatic subjects, regardless of gender.
We demonstrate that T cells from asthmatics are programmed for increased accumulation of both type 2 and type 1 T cells. Gender had a profound effect on the regulation of type 2 T cells, thus providing a mechanism for the higher frequency of adult asthma in females.
PMCID: PMC2919468  PMID: 20667106
Severe asthma causes the majority of asthma morbidity. Understanding mechanisms that contribute to the development of severe disease is important.
The goal of the Severe Asthma Research Program is to identify and characterize subjects with severe asthma to understand pathophysiologic mechanisms in severe asthma.
We performed a comprehensive phenotypic characterization (questionnaires, atopy and pulmonary function testing, phlebotomy, exhaled nitric oxide) in subjects with severe and not severe asthma.
A total of 438 subjects with asthma were studied (204 severe, 70 moderate, 164 mild). Severe subjects with asthma were older with longer disease duration (P < .0001), more daily symptoms, intense urgent health care utilization, sinusitis, and pneumonia (P ≤ .0001). Lung function was lower in severe asthma with marked bronchodilator reversibility (P < .001). The severe group had less atopy by skin tests (P = .0007), but blood eosinophils, IgE, and exhaled nitric oxide levels did not differentiate disease severity. A reduced FEV1, history of pneumonia, and fewer positive skin tests were risk factors for severe disease. Early disease onset (age < 12 years) in severe asthma was associated with longer disease duration (P < .0001) and more urgent health care, especially intensive care (P = .002). Later disease onset (age ≥ 12 years) was associated with lower lung function and sinopulmonary infections (P ≤ .02).
Severe asthma is characterized by abnormal lung function that is responsive to bronchodilators, a history of sinopulmonary infections, persistent symptoms, and increased health care utilization.
Clinical implications
Lung function abnormalities in severe asthma are reversible in most patients, and pneumonia is a risk factor for the development of severe disease.
PMCID: PMC2837934  PMID: 17291857
Severe asthma; definition; bronchodilator response; pathophysiology; phenotype; pneumonia

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