The field of biomarker research has almost reached unmanageable proportions in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The developments of new technology platforms have generated a huge information data base, both cross sectionally and increasingly, longitudinally. The knowledge emerging provides an enormous potential for understanding the disease pathophysiology, for developing markers specific for long-term outcomes, and for developing new therapeutic strategies. However, the excitement must be tempered with an understanding of the limitations of the data collection techniques, and of the variations in disease state, activity, impact, and progression. Nevertheless, the most crucial aspect in interpreting the current literature is the recognition of the relatively superficial characterization of what is a complex group of pathological processes with a common end point of airflow limitation. The current review explores some of these issues together with those areas where real progress appears to have been made, and provides caution on interpretation.
emphysema; inflammation; secretions; technology platforms
Intravenous augmentation therapy is the only specific treatment available for emphysema associated with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Despite large observational studies and limited interventional studies there remains controversy about the efficacy of this treatment due to the impracticality of conducting adequately powered studies to evaluate the rate of decline in lung function, due to the low prevalence and the slow progression of the disease. However, measurement of lung density by computed tomography is a more specific and sensitive marker of the evolution of emphysema and two small placebo-controlled clinical trials have provided evidence supporting a reduction in the rate of decline in lung density with augmentation therapy.
Where augmentation therapy has become available there has been little consideration of a structured approach to therapy which is often introduced on the basis of functional impairment at diagnosis. Data from registries have shown a great variability in the evolution of lung disease according to patient acquisition and the presence of recognised risk factors. Avoidance of risk factors may, in many cases, stabilise the disease. Since augmentation therapy itself will at best preserve the presenting level of lung damage yet require intravenous administration for life with associated costs, identification of patients at risk of continued rapid or long term progression is essential to select those for whom this treatment can be most appropriate and hence generally more cost-effective. This represents a major reconsideration of the current practice in order to develop a consistent approach to management world wide.
Purpose of this review
The current review assesses the evidence for efficacy of augmentation therapy and considers how the combination of age, physiological impairment, exacerbation history and rate of decline in spirometry and other measures of emphysema may be used to improve therapeutic decision making, until a reliable predictive biomarker of the evolution of lung impairment can be identified. In addition, individual pharmacokinetic studies may permit the selection of the best regimen of administration for those who need it.
The rarity and variable characteristics of the disease imply the need for an individualised approach to therapy in specialised centres with sufficient experience to apply a systematic approach to monitoring and management.
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency; COPD; Risk factors; Augmentation therapy
Free light chains are proteins produced by B lymphocytes during the process of antibody synthesis. Their production, as a reflection of B cell activation, can give insight into the activity of the adaptive immune system. In recent years, an automated immunoassay that provides quantitative measurement of free light chains in the serum has been developed. This assay has not only revolutionised the investigation of monoclonal light chain overproduction in plasma cell diseases, but has also allowed for the quantification of polyclonal free light chains in serum. The discovery of high levels of polyclonal free light chains in a number of inflammatory and auto-immune conditions has led to the examination of their value as a biomarker of disease activity. Research into their bio-activity has also highlighted their potential role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory disease, making them an attractive target for novel therapies.
Diary cards are useful for analyzing exacerbations in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), although factors influencing the length and frequency of each episode are poorly understood. This study investigated factors that influence the features of exacerbations in patients with alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency (PiZ phenotype) and COPD.
Daily diary cards were collected over 2 years. Patients had emphysema visualized and quantified by computed tomography scan, and had at least one documented exacerbation in the previous year.
The patients (n = 23) had a mean age of 52.5 years, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) of 1.2 L (38.4% predicted), corrected gas transfer (KCO) of 0.90 mmol/min/kPa/L (59.7% predicted), and 15th percentile lung density of 44.55 g/L. Two hundred and sixty-three exacerbations (164 treated) were identified. The frequency of treated exacerbations correlated negatively with KCO% predicted (r = −0.432; P = 0.022). Exacerbation length (determined for 17 of the patients for whom diary card data through the episode were available) correlated negatively with baseline 15th percentile lung density (r = −0.361; P = 0.003), and increased the longer treatment was delayed (r = 0.503; P < 0.001). Treatment delay was shorter with higher day 1 symptom score, lower baseline FEV1, FEV1/forced vital capacity, and lower 15th percentile lung density (r = −0.368, 0.272, 0.461, and 0.786; P = 0.004, 0.036, <0.001, and <0.001, respectively). Time to resolution of exacerbation after treatment initiation was not affected by treatment delay, but correlated negatively with KCO% predicted (r = −0.647; P = 0.007).
In alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, the frequency and length of resolution of exacerbation were related to baseline gas transfer. Treatment delay adversely affected exacerbation length, and lung density was the best independent predictor of delay in starting treatment.
alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency; antibiotic; exacerbation; gas transfer; lung density; lung function
The development of COPD in subjects with alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency is likely to be influenced by modifier genes. Genome-wide association studies and integrative genomics approaches in COPD have demonstrated significant associations with SNPs in the chromosome 15q region that includes CHRNA3 (cholinergic nicotine receptor alpha3) and IREB2 (iron regulatory binding protein 2).
We investigated whether SNPs in the chromosome 15q region would be modifiers for lung function and COPD in AAT deficiency.
The current analysis included 378 PIZZ subjects in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study and a replication cohort of 458 subjects from the UK AAT Deficiency National Registry. Nine SNPs in LOC123688, CHRNA3 and IREB2 were selected for genotyping. FEV1 percent of predicted and FEV1/FVC ratio were analyzed as quantitative phenotypes. Family-based association analysis was performed in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study. In the replication set, general linear models were used for quantitative phenotypes and logistic regression models were used for the presence/absence of emphysema or COPD.
Three SNPs (rs2568494 in IREB2, rs8034191 in LOC123688, and rs1051730 in CHRNA3) were associated with pre-bronchodilator FEV1 percent of predicted in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study. Two SNPs (rs2568494 and rs1051730) were associated with the post-bronchodilator FEV1 percent of predicted and pre-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC ratio; SNP-by-gender interactions were observed. In the UK National Registry dataset, rs2568494 was significantly associated with emphysema in the male subgroup; significant SNP-by-smoking interactions were observed.
IREB2 and CHRNA3 are potential genetic modifiers of COPD phenotypes in individuals with severe AAT deficiency and may be sex-specific in their impact.
CHRNA3; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Genetic association analysis; Genetic modifiers; IREB2
Determining the presence and extent of co-morbidities is fundamental in assessing patients with chronic respiratory disease, where increased cardiovascular risk, presence of osteoporosis and low muscle mass have been recognised in several disease states. We hypothesised that the systemic consequences are evident in a further group of subjects with COPD due to Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (A1ATD), yet are currently under-recognised.
We studied 19 patients with PiZZ A1ATD COPD and 20 age, sex and smoking matched controls, all subjects free from known cardiovascular disease. They underwent spirometry, haemodynamic measurements including aortic pulse wave velocity (aPWV), an independent predictor or cardiovascular risk, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry to determine body composition and bone mineral density.
The aPWV was greater in patients: 9.9(2.1) m/s than controls: 8.5(1.6) m/s, p = 0.03, despite similar mean arterial pressure (MAP). The strongest predictors of aPWV were age, FEV1% predicted and MAP (all p < 0.01). Osteoporosis was present in 8/19 patients (2/20 controls) and was previously unsuspected in 7 patients. The fat free mass and bone mineral density were lower in patients than controls (p < 0.001).
Patients with A1ATD related COPD have increased aortic stiffness suggesting increased risk of cardiovascular disease and evidence of occult musculoskeletal changes, all likely to contribute hugely to overall morbidity and mortality.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common problem worldwide, and it is recognized that the term encompasses overlapping sub-phenotypes of disease. The development of a sub-phenotype may be determined in part by an individual's genetics, which in turn may determine response to treatment. A growing understanding of the genetic factors that predispose to COPD and its sub-phenotypes and the pathophysiology of the condition is now leading to the suggestion of individualized therapy based on the patients' clinical phenotype and genotype. Pharmacogenetics is the study of variations in treatment response according to genotype and is perhaps the next direction for genetic research in COPD. Here, we consider how knowledge of the pathophysiology and genetic risk factors for COPD may inform future management strategies for affected individuals.
Two randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have investigated the efficacy of IV alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) augmentation therapy on emphysema progression using CT densitometry.
Data from these similar trials, a 2-center Danish-Dutch study (n = 54) and the 3-center EXAcerbations and CT scan as Lung Endpoints (EXACTLE) study (n = 65), were pooled to increase the statistical power. The change in 15th percentile of lung density (PD15) measured by CT scan was obtained from both trials. All subjects had 1 CT scan at baseline and at least 1 CT scan after treatment. Densitometric data from 119 patients (AAT [Alfalastin® or Prolastin®], n = 60; placebo, n = 59) were analysed by a statistical/endpoint analysis method. To adjust for lung volume, volume correction was made by including the change in log-transformed total lung volume as a covariate in the statistical model.
Mean follow-up was approximately 2.5 years. The mean change in lung density from baseline to last CT scan was -4.082 g/L for AAT and -6.379 g/L for placebo with a treatment difference of 2.297 (95% CI, 0.669 to 3.926; p = 0.006). The corresponding annual declines were -1.73 and -2.74 g/L/yr, respectively.
The overall results of the combined analysis of 2 separate trials of comparable design, and the only 2 controlled clinical trials completed to date, has confirmed that IV AAT augmentation therapy significantly reduces the decline in lung density and may therefore reduce the future risk of mortality in patients with AAT deficiency-related emphysema.
The EXACTLE study was registered in ClinicalTrials.gov as 'Antitrypsin (AAT) to Treat Emphysema in AAT-Deficient Patients'; ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00263887.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with a pulmonary inflammatory response to inhaled substances, and individuals with COPD often have raised levels of several circulating inflammatory markers indicating the presence of systemic inflammation. Recently, there has been increasing interest in comorbidities associated with COPD such as skeletal muscle dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and lung cancer. These conditions are associated with a similar inflammation-based patho-physiology to COPD, and may represent a lung inflammatory ‘overspill’ to distant organs. Cardiovascular disease is a significant cause of mortality in COPD, and the concepts of an inflammatory link raise the possibility that treatment for one organ may show benefits to comorbidities in other organs. When considering treatment of COPD and its comorbidities, one approach is to target the pulmonary inflammation and hence reduce any ‘overspill’ effect of inflammatory mediators systemically as suggested by response to inhaled corticosteroids. Alternatively, treatment targeted towards comorbid organs may alter features of pulmonary disease as statins, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) agonists may have beneficial effects on COPD by reducing exacerbations and mortality. Newer anti-inflammatory treatments, such as phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4), nuclear factor(NF)-kB, and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) inhibitors, are given systemically and may confer benefits to both COPD and its comorbidities. With common inflammatory pathways it might be expected that successful anti-inflammatory therapy in one organ may also influence others. In this review we explore the concepts of systemic inflammation in COPD and current evidence for treatment of its related comorbidities.
angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors; anti-inflammatory drugs; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; comorbidity; peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor agonists; statins; systemic inflammation
Computed tomography (CT) lung densitometry has been demonstrated to be the most sensitive and specific outcome measure for the assessment of emphysema-modifying therapy, but the optimum densitometric index has yet to be determined and targeted sampling may be more sensitive than whole lung assessment. The EXAcerbations and CT scan as Lung Endpoints (EXACTLE) trial aimed to clarify the optimum approach to the use of CT densitometry data for the assessment of alpha 1-antitrypsin (AAT) augmentation therapy on the progression of emphysema in AAT deficiency (AATD).
Patients with AATD (n = 77) were randomised to weekly infusions of 60 mg/kg human AAT (Prolastin®) or placebo over 2 to 2.5 years. Lung volume was included as a covariate in an endpoint analysis and a comparison was made of different CT densitometric indices (15th percentile lung density [PD15], mean lung density [MLD] and voxel index at a threshold of -910 [VI-910] and -950 [VI-950] Hounsfield Units) obtained from whole lung scans at baseline and at 24 to 30 months. Targeted regional sampling was compared with whole lung assessment.
Whole lung analysis of the total change (baseline to last CT scan) compared with placebo indicated a concordant trend that was suggestive of a treatment effect for all densitometric indices (MLD [1.402 g/L, p = 0.204]; VI-910 [-0.611, p = 0.389]; VI-950 [-0.432, p = 0.452]) and that was significant using PD15 (1.472 g/L, p = 0.049). Assessment of the progression of emphysema in the apical, middle and basal regions of the lung by measurement with PD15 showed that this treatment effect was more evident when the basal third was sampled (1.722 g/L, p = 0.040). A comparison between different densitometric indices indicated that the influence of inspiratory variability between scans was greatest for PD15, but when adjustment for lung volume was made this index was the most sensitive measure of emphysema progression.
PD15 is the most sensitive index of emphysema progression and of treatment modification. Targeted sampling may be more sensitive than whole lung analysis.
Registered in ClinicalTrials.gov as 'Antitrypsin (AAT) to Treat Emphysema in AAT-Deficient Patients'; ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00263887.
Secretory leukoproteinase inhibitor (SLPI) is an important inhibitor of neutrophil elastase (NE), a proteinase implicated in the pathogenesis of lung diseases such as COPD. SLPI also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, but the concentration of SLPI in lung secretions in COPD varies inversely with infection and the concentration of NE. A fall in SLPI concentration is also seen in culture supernatants of respiratory cells exposed to NE, for unknown reasons. We investigated the hypothesis that SLPI complexed with NE associates with cell membranes in vitro.
Respiratory epithelial cells were cultured in the presence of SLPI, varying doses of proteinases over time, and in different experimental conditions. The likely predicted charge of the complex between SLPI and proteinases was assessed by theoretical molecular modelling.
We observed a rapid, linear decrease in SLPI concentration in culture supernatants with increasing concentration of NE and cathepsin G, but not with other serine proteinases. The effect of NE was inhibited fully by a synthetic NE inhibitor only when added at the same time as NE. Direct contact between NE and SLPI was required for a fall in SLPI concentration. Passive binding to cell culture plate materials was able to remove a substantial amount of SLPI both with and without NE. Theoretical molecular modelling of the structure of SLPI in complex with various proteinases showed a greater positive charge for the complex with NE and cathepsin G than for other proteinases, such as trypsin and mast cell tryptase, that also bind SLPI but without reducing its concentration.
These data suggest that NE-mediated decrease in SLPI is a passive, charge-dependent phenomenon in vitro, which may correlate with changes observed in vivo.
Genetic variation may underlie phenotypic variation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in subjects with and without alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD). Genotype specific sub-phenotypes are likely and may underlie the poor replication of previous genetic studies. This study investigated subjects with AATD to determine the relationship between specific phenotypes and TNFα polymorphisms.
424 unrelated subjects of the PiZZ genotype were assessed for history of chronic bronchitis, impairment of lung function and radiological presence of emphysema and bronchiectasis. A subset of subjects with 3 years consecutive lung function data was assessed for decline of lung function. Four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) tagging TNFα were genotyped using TaqMan® genotyping technologies and compared between subjects affected by each phenotype and those unaffected. Plasma TNFα levels were measured in all PiZZ subjects.
All SNPs were in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. A significant difference in rs361525 genotype (p = 0.01) and allele (p = 0.01) frequency was seen between subjects with and without chronic bronchitis, independent of the presence of other phenotypes. TNFα plasma level showed no phenotypic or genotypic associations.
Variation in TNFα is associated with chronic bronchitis in AATD.
Computer tomography (CT) densitometry is a potential tool for detecting the progression of emphysema but the optimum methodology is uncertain. The level of inspiration affects reproducibility but the ability to adjust for this variable is facilitated by whole lung scanning methods. However, emphysema is frequently localised to sub-regions of the lung and targeted densitometric sampling may be more informative than whole lung assessment.
Emphysema progression over a 2-year interval was assessed in 71 patients (alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency with PiZ phenotype) with CT densitometry, using the 15th percentile point (Perc15) and voxel index (VI) -950 Hounsfield Units (HU) and -910 HU (VI -950 and -910) on whole lung, limited single slices, and apical, central and basal thirds. The relationship between whole lung densitometric progression (ΔCT) and change in CT-derived lung volume (ΔCTVol) was characterised, and adjustment for lung volume using statistical modelling was evaluated.
CT densitometric progression was statistically significant for all methods. ΔCT correlated with ΔCTVol and linear regression indicated that nearly one half of lung density loss was secondary to apparent hyperinflation. The most accurate measure was obtained using a random coefficient model to adjust for lung volume and the greatest progression was detected by targeted sampling of the middle third of the lung.
Progressive hyperinflation may contribute significantly to loss of lung density, but volume effects and absolute tissue loss can be identified by statistical modelling. Targeted sampling of the middle lung region using Perc15 appears to be the most robust measure of emphysema progression.
Several studies have demonstrated that long-acting β2-agonists such as salmeterol are beneficial in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A meta-analysis was therefore conducted to review studies in COPD to provide pooled estimates of the effect of salmeterol 50 mcg taken twice daily in addition to usual therapy on several clinically relevant endpoints, when compared with placebo/usual therapy.
An extensive search of literature and clinical trial databases was conducted using the terms salmeterol, COPD, chronic, obstructive, bronchitis and emphysema. Nine randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trials of ≥12 week duration with salmeterol 50 mcg bid treatment in COPD were included (>3500 patients), with a further 14 trials excluded due to study design or reporting timelines. All patients were included, and a sub-group of subjects (84%) with poorly reversible COPD were considered separately. Statistical testing was carried out at the 5% level, except for interaction testing which was carried out at the 10% level.
Patients treated with salmeterol over 12 months were less likely to withdraw early from the studies (19% patients compared with 25% on their current usual therapy, p < 0.001), less likely to suffer a moderate/severe exacerbation (34% compared with 39%, p < 0.0001) and had a greater increase in average FEV1 (73 mL difference vs placebo/usual therapy, p < 0.0001). Similar differences were found at 3 and 6 months. At all time points, more patients experienced an improvement in health status and also a greater change with salmeterol than with placebo/usual therapy (p < 0.002). There was no evidence of tachyphylaxis to salmeterol over 12 months.
The meta-analysis confirmed clinically and statistically significant, sustained and consistent superiority of salmeterol 50 mcg bid over placebo/usual therapy on a broad range of outcome measures.
Inflammation is considered to be of primary pathogenic importance in COPD but the evidence on which current understanding is based does not distinguish between cause and effect, and no single mechanism can account for the complex pathology. We performed a prospective longitudinal study of subjects with COPD that related markers of sputum inflammation at baseline to subsequent disease progression.
A cohort of 56 patients with chronic bronchitis was characterized in the stable state at baseline and after an interval of four years, using physiological measures and CT densitometry. Sputum markers of airway inflammation were quantified at baseline from spontaneously produced sputum in a sub-group (n = 38), and inflammation severity was related to subsequent disease progression.
Physiological and CT measures indicated disease progression in the whole group. In the sub-group, sputum myeloperoxidase correlated with decline in FEV1 (rs = -0.344, p = 0.019, n = 37). LTB4 and albumin leakage correlated with TLCO decline (rs = -0.310, p = 0.033, rs = -0.401, p = 0.008, respectively, n = 35) and IL-8 correlated with progression of lung densitometric indices (rs = -0.464, p = 0.005, n = 38).
The data support a principal causative role for neutrophilic inflammation in the pathogenesis of COPD and suggest that the measurement of sputum inflammatory markers may have a predictive role in clinical practice.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a heterogeneous disease caused by the interaction of genetic susceptibility and environmental influences. There is increasing evidence that genes link to disease pathogenesis and heterogeneity by causing variation in protease anti-protease systems, defence against oxidative stress and inflammation. The main methods of genomic research for complex disease traits are described, together with the genes implicated in COPD thus far, their roles in disease causation and the future for this area of investigation.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is and will remain a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The severity of airflow obstruction is known to relate to overall health status and mortality. However, even allowing for common aetiological factors, a link has been identified between COPD and other systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
COPD is known to be an inflammatory condition and neutrophil elastase has long been considered a significant mediator of the disease. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, in particular TNF-α (Tumour Necrosis Factor alpha), may be the driving force behind the disease process. However, the roles of inflammation and these pro-inflammatory cytokines may extend beyond the lungs and play a part in the systemic effects of the disease and associated co-morbidities. This article describes the mechanisms involved and proposes a common inflammatory TNF-α phenotype that may, in part, account for the associations.
There are several signalling pathways involved in lung organogenesis including Notch, TGFβ /BMP, Sonic hedgehog (Shh), FGF, EGF, and Wnt. Despite the widely acknowledged significance of Wnt signalling in embryonic lung development, the role of different Wnt pathways in lung pathologies has been slow to emerge.
In this review, we will present a synopsis of current Wnt research with particular attention paid to the role of Wnt signals in lung development and in pulmonary diseases.