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.
asthma; remodeling; inflammation; bronchoscopy; imaging
Asthma is a common chronic respiratory disease characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). The genetics of asthma have been widely studied in mouse and human, and homologous genomic regions have been associated with mouse AHR and human asthma-related phenotypes. Our goal was to identify asthma-related genes by integrating AHR associations in mouse with human genome-wide association study (GWAS) data. We used Efficient Mixed Model Association (EMMA) analysis to conduct a GWAS of baseline AHR measures from males and females of 31 mouse strains. Genes near or containing SNPs with EMMA p-values <0.001 were selected for further study in human GWAS. The results of the previously reported EVE consortium asthma GWAS meta-analysis consisting of 12,958 diverse North American subjects from 9 study centers were used to select a subset of homologous genes with evidence of association with asthma in humans. Following validation attempts in three human asthma GWAS (i.e., Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG) and two human AHR GWAS (i.e., SHARP, DAG), the Kv channel interacting protein 4 (KCNIP4) gene was identified as nominally associated with both asthma and AHR at a gene- and SNP-level. In EVE, the smallest KCNIP4 association was at rs6833065 (P-value 2.9e-04), while the strongest associations for Sepracor/LOCCS/LODO/Illumina, GABRIEL, DAG were 1.5e-03, 1.0e-03, 3.1e-03 at rs7664617, rs4697177, rs4696975, respectively. At a SNP level, the strongest association across all asthma GWAS was at rs4697177 (P-value 1.1e-04). The smallest P-values for association with AHR were 2.3e-03 at rs11947661 in SHARP and 2.1e-03 at rs402802 in DAG. Functional studies are required to validate the potential involvement of KCNIP4 in modulating asthma susceptibility and/or AHR. Our results suggest that a useful approach to identify genes associated with human asthma is to leverage mouse AHR association data.
asthma genetics; atopy; C11orf30; LRRC32; total serum IgE levels
Rationale: Recent studies suggest that people with asthma of different racial backgrounds may respond differently to various therapies.
Objectives: To use data from well-characterized participants in prior Asthma Clinical Research Network (ACRN) trials to determine whether racial differences affected asthma treatment failures.
Methods: We analyzed baseline phenotypes and treatment failure rates (worsening asthma resulting in systemic corticosteroid use, hospitalization, emergency department visit, prolonged decrease in peak expiratory flow, increase in albuterol use, or safety concerns) in subjects participating in 10 ACRN trials (1993–2003). Self-declared race was reported in each trial and treatment failure rates were stratified by race.
Measurements and Main Results: A total of 1,200 unique subjects (whites = 795 [66%]; African Americans = 233 [19%]; others = 172 [14%]; mean age = 32) were included in the analyses. At baseline, African Americans had fewer asthma symptoms (P < 0.001) and less average daily rescue inhaler use (P = 0.007) than whites. There were no differences in baseline FEV1 (% predicted); asthma quality of life; bronchial hyperreactivity; or exhaled nitric oxide concentrations. A total of 147 treatment failures were observed; a significantly higher proportion of African Americans (19.7%; n = 46) experienced a treatment failure compared with whites (12.7%; n = 101) (odds ratio = 1.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.2–2.5; P = 0.007). When stratified by treatment, African Americans receiving long-acting β-agonists were twice as likely as whites to experience a treatment failure (odds ratio = 2.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.3–3.6; P = 0.004), even when used with other controller therapies.
Conclusions: Despite having fewer asthma symptoms and less rescue β-agonist use, African-Americans with asthma have more treatment failures compared with whites, especially when taking long-acting β-agonists.
asthma; long-acting β-agonist; African Americans; race; treatment failure
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.
investigative bronchoscopy; safety; severe asthma; exacerbation
Bronchodilator response (BDR) is an important asthma phenotype that measures reversibility of airway obstruction by comparing lung function (i.e. FEV1) before and after the administration of a short-acting β2-agonist, the most common rescue medications used for the treatment of asthma. BDR also serves as a test of β2-agonist efficacy. BDR is a complex trait that is partly under genetic control. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of BDR, quantified as percent change in baseline FEV1 after administration of a β2-agonist, was performed with 1,644 non-Hispanic white asthmatic subjects from six drug clinical trials: CAMP, LOCCS, LODO, a medication trial conducted by Sepracor, CARE, and ACRN. Data for 469,884 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were used to measure the association of SNPs with BDR using a linear regression model, while adjusting for age, sex, and height. Replication of primary P-values was attempted in 501 white subjects from SARP and 550 white subjects from DAG. Experimental evidence supporting the top gene was obtained via siRNA knockdown and Western blotting analyses. The lowest overall combined P-value was 9.7E-07 for SNP rs295137, near the SPATS2L gene. Among subjects in the primary analysis, those with rs295137 TT genotype had a median BDR of 16.0 (IQR = [6.2, 32.4]), while those with CC or TC genotypes had a median BDR of 10.9 (IQR = [5.0, 22.2]). SPATS2L mRNA knockdown resulted in increased β2-adrenergic receptor levels. Our results suggest that SPATS2L may be an important regulator of β2-adrenergic receptor down-regulation and that there is promise in gaining a better understanding of the biological mechanisms of differential response to β2-agonists through GWAS.
Bronchodilator response (BDR) is an important asthma phenotype that measures reversibility of airway obstruction by comparing lung function before and after the administration of short-acting β2-agonists, common medications used for asthma treatment. We performed a genome-wide association study of BDR with 1,644 white asthmatic subjects from six drug clinical trials and attempted to replicate these findings in 1,051 white subjects from two independent cohorts. The most significant associated variant was near the SPATS2L gene. We knocked down SPATS2L mRNA in human airway smooth muscle cells and found that β2-adrenergic receptor levels increased, suggesting that SPATS2L may be a regulator of BDR. Our results highlight the promise of pursuing GWAS results that do not necessarily reach genome-wide significance and are an example of how results from pharmacogenetic GWAS can be studied functionally.
Two recent large meta-analyses of genome-wide association studies of lung function in general populations of European descent identified 11 candidate genes/regions. The importance of these genes in lung function in whites and African Americans with asthma is unknown.
To determine if genes that regulate lung function in general populations are associated with lung function abnormalities in subjects with asthma from different racial groups.
SNPs were tested in five asthma populations (n = 1,441) for association with pulmonary function and meta-analysis was performed across populations. The SNPs with the highest significance were then tested for association with bronchodilator reversibility and bronchial hyperresponsiveness to methacholine (BHR). A joint analysis of consistently replicated SNPs was performed to predict lung function in asthma.
Hedgehog interacting protein (HHIP) on chromosome 4q31 was associated with lung function in all five populations, rs1512288: Pmeta = 9.62E-05 and 3.23E-05 for ppFEV1 and ppFVC, respectively. The SNPs in HHIP were also associated with reversibility (P < 0.05) but not BHR. Because of differences in linkage disequilibrium in the African-American subjects, the most relevant SNPs in HHIP were identified. A subset of normal lung function genes, including HHIP, family with sequence similarity 13, member A (FAM13A), and patched homolog 1 (PTCH1), together predict lung function abnormalities, a measure of severity in whites and African Americans with asthma.
A subset of the genes, including HHIP, which regulate lung function in general populations are associated with abnormal lung function in asthma in non-Hispanic whites and African Americans.
Asthma; Genetics; Asthma severity; Meta-analysis; FEV1; FVC; FEV1/FVC; HHIP; FAM13A; PTCH1
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.
Severe; asthma; obesity; SARP
In asthma, cysteinyl leukotrienes (CysLTs) play varying roles in the bronchomotor response to multiple provocative stimuli. The contribution of CysLTs on the airway's response to hypertonic saline (HS) inhalation in asthma is unknown. Whether polymorphisms in the leukotriene biosynthetic pathway affect the contribution of CysLTs to this response is also unknown.
In a prospective, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study, mild and moderate asymptomatic asthmatics underwent inhaled 3% HS challenge by doubling the duration of nebulization (0.5, 1, 2, 4, and 8 min) two hours after one dose of montelukast (a CysLT receptor 1 [CysLTR1] antagonist) or placebo, and after three week courses. We examined the effect of the leukotriene C4 synthase (LTC4S) polymorphism (A-444C) on the efficacy of montelukast against HS inhalation in an exploratory manner.
In 37 subjects, two hours after administration of montelukast, the mean provocative dose of HS required to cause a 20% drop in FEV1 (HS-PD20) increased by 59% (9.17 after placebo vs. 14.55 ml after montelukast, p = 0.0154). Three weeks of cysLTR1 antagonism increased the HS-PD20 by 84% (10.97 vs. 20.21 ml, p = 0.0002). Three weeks of CysLTR1 antagonism appeared to produce greater effects on blocking bronchial hyper responsiveness (two hour vs. three week HS-PD20 values 14.55 vs. 20.21 ml respectively, p = 0.0898). We did not observe an effect of the LTC4S polymorphism on the response to CysLTR1 antagonism in this cohort.
A significant proportion of HS-induced bronchoconstriction is mediated by release of leukotrienes as evidenced by substantial acute inhibition with a CysLTR1 antagonist. There was a trend toward greater inhibition of bronchial responsiveness with three weeks of therapy as opposed to acute CysLTR1 antagonism.
Asthma; Leukotriene-C4 synthase; Montelukast; Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide; Saline Solution, Hypertonic
Questions exist regarding the appropriate age for referral of an atopic child to an allergist for environmental skin prick testing. This study evaluates age-specific prevalence of sensitization to aeroallergens from infancy through adolescence. A total of 1394 patients were skin tested, with 57.2% being sensitized to at least 1 aeroallergen. In children younger than 2, the authors found that 26.5% were sensitized, including to dogs (15.5%) and cats (9.2%). Additionally, tree sensitization was demonstrated in the youngest age group (7.8% at 0–2 years; 17.1% at 2–4 years), including in 3 infants less than 1 year old. Sensitization rates to dust mites and trees were the highest in all ages above 4 years, with a peak tree sensitization of 56.4% at 10 to 12 years and a peak dust mite sensitization of 56.8% in the >12 group. Overall, the authors observed increasing sensitization rates throughout childhood for indoor and outdoor aeroallergens (P < .001). Aeroallergen sensitization begins at a young age and increases during childhood.
allergy; skin prick test; children; atopy
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) shape innate and adaptive immunity to microorganisms. The enzyme IRAK1 transduces signals from TLRs, but its activation and regulation mechanisms remain unknown. We show that TLR7 and TLR9 activated the isomerase Pin1, which then bound to IRAK1, resulting in IRAK1 activation and facilitating its release from the receptor complex to activate the transcription factor IRF7 and induce type I interferons. Consequently, Pin1-null cells and mice failed to mount TLR-mediated, interferon-dependent innate and adaptive immune responses. Given the critical role of aberrant IRAK1 activation and type I interferons in various immune diseases, controlling IRAK1 activation via Pin1 inhibition may represent a useful therapeutic approach.
Rationale: Severe asthma (SA) remains poorly understood. Mast cells (MC) are implicated in asthma pathogenesis, but it remains unknown how their phenotype, location, and activation relate to asthma severity.
Objectives: To compare MC-related markers measured in bronchoscopically obtained samples with clinically relevant parameters between normal subjects and subjects with asthma to clarify their pathobiologic importance.
Methods: Endobronchial biopsies, epithelial brushings, and bronchoalveolar lavage were obtained from subjects with asthma and normal subjects from the Severe Asthma Research Program (N = 199). Tryptase, chymase, and carboxypeptidase A (CPA)3 were used to identify total MC (MCTot) and the MCTC subset (MCs positive for both tryptase and chymase) using immunostaining and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Lavage was analyzed for tryptase and prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) by ELISA.
Measurements and Main Results: Submucosal MCTot (tryptase-positive by immunostaining) numbers were highest in “mild asthma/no inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) therapy” subjects and decreased with greater asthma severity (P = 0.002). In contrast, MCTC (chymase-positive by immunostaining) were the predominant (MCTC/MCTot > 50%) MC phenotype in SA (overall P = 0.005). Epithelial MCTot were also highest in mild asthma/no ICS, but were not lower in SA. Instead, they persisted and were predominantly MCTC. Epithelial CPA3 and tryptase mRNA supported the immunostaining data (overall P = 0.008 and P = 0.02, respectively). Lavage PGD2 was higher in SA than in other steroid-treated groups (overall P = 0.02), whereas tryptase did not differentiate the groups. In statistical models, PGD2 and MCTC/MCTot predicted SA.
Conclusions: Severe asthma is associated with a predominance of MCTC in the airway submucosa and epithelium. Activation of those MCTC may contribute to the increases in PGD2 levels. The data suggest an altered and active MC population contributes to SA pathology.
prostaglandin D2; chymase; carboxypeptidase A
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of asthma and asthma-related traits, including our previous TENOR study1, have consistently identified ORMDL3-GSDMB, IL33, IL1RL1-IL18R1, RAD50-IL13, TSLP-WDR36, and HLA-DR/DQ regions.2
In this study, GWAS of asthma was performed in non-Hispanic white population from STAMPEED study (813 cases and 1564 controls). Our GWAS results were compared with the published GWAS of asthma and autoimmune diseases (AD).
Multiple SNPs in TNFAIP3 interacting protein 1 (TNIP1) on chromosome 5q32-q33.1 were associated with asthma in STAMPEED: rs1422673 (P = 3.44 × 10−7) and rs10036748 (P = 1.41 × 10−6). rs1422673 was weakly associated with asthma in the published GABRIEL study (P = 0.018 for meta-analysis)2 but not in the TENOR study (P = 0.18 but same trend).1
TNIP1 may interact with TNFAIP3 and inhibit TNFα-induced NFκB inflammation pathway. Joint analyses were performed on 6 SNPs in GSDMB (rs2872507), IL33 (rs3939286), IL1RL1 (rs13431828), IL13 (rs20541), TSLP (rs1837253), and HLA-DRA (rs2395185) in STAMPEED and TENOR populations, but only limited variance can be explained (percentage of deviance = 1.5–1.9%; the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) = 0.58–0.59). Minor allele T of rs20541 in IL13 is the risk allele for asthma but the protective allele for psoriasis. Minor allele A of rs2872507 in GSDMB is the protective allele for asthma but the risk allele for rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. T allele of rs10036748 in TNIP1 is the minor protective allele for asthma, but the minor or major risk allele for systemic lupus erythematosus in non-Hispanic white or Chinese population, respectively.
Our study provides genetic evidence that asthma and AD have opposite immunopathogenesis directions.
In prospective experimental studies in patients with asthma, it is difficult to determine whether responses to placebo differ from the natural course of physiological changes that occur without any intervention. We compared the effects of a bronchodilator, two placebo interventions, and no intervention on outcomes in patients with asthma.
In a double-blind, crossover pilot study, we randomly assigned 46 patients with asthma to active treatment with an albuterol inhaler, a placebo inhaler, sham acupuncture, or no intervention. Using a block design, we administered one each of these four interventions in random order during four sequential visits (3 to 7 days apart); this procedure was repeated in two more blocks of visits (for a total of 12 visits by each patient). At each visit, spirometry was performed repeatedly over a period of 2 hours. Maximum forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) was measured, and patients’ self-reported improvement ratings were recorded.
Among the 39 patients who completed the study, albuterol resulted in a 20% increase in FEV1, as compared with approximately 7% with each of the other three interventions (P<0.001). However, patients’ reports of improvement after the intervention did not differ significantly for the albuterol inhaler (50% improvement), placebo inhaler (45%), or sham acupuncture (46%), but the subjective improvement with all three of these interventions was significantly greater than that with the no-intervention control (21%) (P<0.001).
Although albuterol, but not the two placebo interventions, improved FEV1 in these patients with asthma, albuterol provided no incremental benefit with respect to the self-reported outcomes. Placebo effects can be clinically meaningful and can rival the effects of active medication in patients with asthma. However, from a clinical-management and research-design perspective, patient self-reports can be unreliable. An assessment of untreated responses in asthma may be essential in evaluating patient-reported outcomes. (Funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01143688.)
Biologic factors are known to contribute to asthma severity. It is unknown whether these factors differentially contribute to asthma severity in Blacks compared to Whites.
We sought to assess the extent to which racial disparities in severe asthma between Blacks and Whites are attributable to physiologic, immunoinflammatory, and sociodemographic variables.
Black and White asthmatic adults enrolled in a cross-sectional study focused on severe asthma were evaluated. Severe asthma was identified using the American Thoracic Society definition. Following initial univariable analyses, unconditional logistic regression models were used to estimate the probability of having severe asthma for Blacks and Whites.
Differences in severe asthma in Blacks compared to Whites were observed. In univariable analysis, IgE was not associated with severe asthma in Blacks or Whites, while in multivariable analysis IgE was significantly associated with severe asthma for Blacks (p=0.014) but not in Whites. The odds of having severe asthma more than doubled for Blacks with 2 or more family members with asthma (p=0.026), while the odds of severe asthma for White participants with a strong family history of asthma decreased by almost half (p=0.05). Atopy was negatively associated with severe asthma in both races in univariable analysis, but remained significant only in Blacks, while co-morbidities were associated with severe asthma in Whites.
Biologic factors were distinctly associated with severe asthma only in Blacks. Studies which incorporate comprehensive evaluation of biologic factors associated with asthma may lead to the development of therapies which target biologic abnormalities in Blacks.
severe asthma; race; IgE; allergic sensitization; immunoinflammatory
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) studies have demonstrated evidence of M. pneumoniae and C. pneumoniae in the lower airways of patients with asthma.
To test the hypothesis that clarithromycin would improve asthma control in individuals with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma that was not well-controlled despite treatment with low-dose inhaled corticosteroids (ICS).
Adults with an Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ) score ≥1.5 after a 4 week period of treatment with fluticasone propionate were entered into a PCR-stratified randomized trial to evaluate the effect of 16 weeks of either clarithromycin or placebo, added to fluticasone, on asthma control in individuals with or without lower airway PCR evidence of M. pneumoniae or C. pneumoniae.
92 participants were randomized. Twelve (13%) subjects demonstrated PCR evidence of M. pneumoniae or C. pneumoniae in endobronchial biopsies; 80 were PCR negative for both organisms. In PCR positive participants, clarithromycin yielded a 0.4±0.4 unit improvement in the ACQ score, with a 0.1±0.3 unit improvement in those allocated to placebo. This between-group difference of 0.3±0.5 (p=0.6) was neither clinically nor statistically significant. In PCR negative participants, a non-significant between-group difference of 0.2±0.2 units (p=0.3) was observed. Clarithromycin did not improve lung function or airway inflammation but did improve airway hyperresponsiveness, increasing the methacholine PC20 by 1.2±0.5 doubling doses (p=0.02) in the study population.
Adding clarithromycin to fluticasone in adults with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma that was suboptimally-controlled by low-dose ICS alone did not further improve asthma control. Although there was an improvement in airway hyperresponsiveness with clarithromycin, this benefit was not accompanied by improvements in other secondary outcomes.
asthma; infection; antibiotic
To determine the nature and extent to which asthma characteristics and management differ between allergy and pulmonary subspecialists.
We used baseline data from 3,342 adults enrolled in The Epidemiology and Natural History of Asthma: Outcomes and Treatment Regimens (TENOR) study, a multicenter, observational cohort recruited from subspecialty practices across the United States. Information on physician subspecialty, asthma history, allergic status, lung function, medication use, and recent healthcare utilization were collected via study coordinator-administered interviews and self-administered validated questionnaires.
In the TENOR study, 2,407 (72%) patients were treated by allergists and 935 (28%) by pulmonologists. Patients treated by pulmonologists were more likely to be black, less educated, and have lower incomes than those treated by allergists. Pulmonary patients had more severe asthma as indicated by physician-assessment, GINA classification, lung function, and number of asthma control problems. Regular use of a short-acting beta-agonist and systemic corticosteroid use was also higher among pulmonary patients than allergy patients, consistent with greater asthma severity. Although evidence of allergic disease was prevalent in both types of patients, allergist treated patients were more likely to receive skin testing or immunotherapy. In multivariate analyses adjusted for demographic differences, patients treated by pulmonologists were more likely to report healthcare utilization for asthma in the past 3 months.
In general, asthma patients treated by pulmonologists are of lower socioeconomic status, have more severe disease, require more medication, and report greater healthcare utilization than those treated by allergists.
Asthma; Allergist; Pulmonologist; Specialty; Practice patterns; TENOR
Rationale: Exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) is a biomarker of airway inflammation in mild to moderate asthma. However, whether FeNO levels are informative regarding airway inflammation in patients with severe asthma, who are refractory to conventional treatment, is unknown. Here, we hypothesized that classification of severe asthma based on airway inflammation as defined by FeNO levels would identify a more reactive, at-risk asthma phenotype.
Methods: FeNO and major features of asthma, including airway inflammation, airflow limitation, hyperinflation, hyperresponsiveness, and atopy, were determined in 446 individuals with various degrees of asthma severity (175 severe, 271 nonsevere) and 49 healthy subjects enrolled in the Severe Asthma Research Program.
Measurements and Main Results: FeNO levels were similar among patients with severe and nonsevere asthma. The proportion of individuals with high FeNO levels (>35 ppb) was the same (40%) among groups despite greater corticosteroid therapy in severe asthma. All patients with asthma and high FeNO had more airway reactivity (maximal reversal in response to bronchodilator administration and by methacholine challenge), more evidence of allergic airway inflammation (sputum eosinophils), more evidence of atopy (positive skin tests, higher serum IgE and blood eosinophils), and more hyperinflation, but decreased awareness of their symptoms. High FeNO identified those patients with severe asthma characterized by the greatest airflow obstruction and hyperinflation and most frequent use of emergency care.
Conclusions: Grouping of asthma by FeNO provides an independent classification of asthma severity, and among patients with severe asthma identifies the most reactive and worrisome asthma phenotype.
nitric oxide; severe asthma; phenotype; airway reactivity; exhaled breath
Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) has adverse effects on the health of asthmatics, however the harmful consequences of ETS in relation to asthma severity are unknown.
In a multicenter study of severe asthma, we assessed the impact of ETS exposure on morbidity, health care utilization and lung functions; and activity of systemic superoxide dismutase (SOD), a potential oxidative target of ETS that is negatively associated with asthma severity.
From 2002–2006, 654 asthmatics (non-severe 366, severe 288) were enrolled, among whom 109 non-severe and 67 severe asthmatics were routinely exposed to ETS as ascertained by history and validated by urine cotinine levels. ETS-exposure was associated with lower quality of life scores; greater rescue inhaler use; lower lung function; greater bronchodilator responsiveness; and greater risk for emergency room visits, hospitalization and intensive care unit admission. ETS-exposure was associated with lower levels of serum SOD activity, particularly in asthmatic women of African heritage.
ETS-exposure of asthmatic individuals is associated with worse lung function, higher acuity of exacerbations, more health care utilization, and greater bronchial hyperreactivity. The association of diminished systemic SOD activity to ETS exposure provides for the first time a specific oxidant mechanism by which ETS may adversely affect patients with asthma.
Long-acting beta-agonist (LABA) therapy improves symptoms in patients whose asthma is poorly controlled by an inhaled glucocorticoid alone. Alternative treatments for adults with uncontrolled asthma are needed.
In a three-way, double-blind, triple-dummy crossover trial involving 210 patients with asthma, we evaluated the addition of tiotropium bromide (a long-acting anticholinergic agent approved for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but not asthma) to an inhaled glucocorticoid, as compared with a doubling of the dose of the inhaled glucocorticoid (primary superiority comparison) or the addition of the LABA salmeterol (secondary noninferiority comparison).
The use of tiotropium resulted in a superior primary outcome, as compared with a doubling of the dose of an inhaled glucocorticoid, as assessed by measuring the morning peak expiratory flow (PEF), with a mean difference of 25.8 liters per minute (P<0.001) and superiority in most secondary outcomes, including evening PEF, with a difference of 35.3 liters per minute (P<0.001); the proportion of asthma-control days, with a difference of 0.079 (P = 0.01); the forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) before bronchodilation, with a difference of 0.10 liters (P = 0.004); and daily symptom scores, with a difference of −0.11 points (P<0.001). The addition of tiotropium was also noninferior to the addition of salmeterol for all assessed outcomes and increased the prebronchodilator FEV1 more than did salmeterol, with a difference of 0.11 liters (P = 0.003).
When added to an inhaled glucocorticoid, tiotropium improved symptoms and lung function in patients with inadequately controlled asthma. Its effects appeared to be equivalent to those with the addition of salmeterol. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00565266.)
Rationale: The Severe Asthma Research Program cohort includes subjects with persistent asthma who have undergone detailed phenotypic characterization. Previous univariate methods compared features of mild, moderate, and severe asthma.
Objectives: To identify novel asthma phenotypes using an unsupervised hierarchical cluster analysis.
Methods: Reduction of the initial 628 variables to 34 core variables was achieved by elimination of redundant data and transformation of categorical variables into ranked ordinal composite variables. Cluster analysis was performed on 726 subjects.
Measurements and Main Results: Five groups were identified. Subjects in Cluster 1 (n = 110) have early onset atopic asthma with normal lung function treated with two or fewer controller medications (82%) and minimal health care utilization. Cluster 2 (n = 321) consists of subjects with early-onset atopic asthma and preserved lung function but increased medication requirements (29% on three or more medications) and health care utilization. Cluster 3 (n = 59) is a unique group of mostly older obese women with late-onset nonatopic asthma, moderate reductions in FEV1, and frequent oral corticosteroid use to manage exacerbations. Subjects in Clusters 4 (n = 120) and 5 (n = 116) have severe airflow obstruction with bronchodilator responsiveness but differ in to their ability to attain normal lung function, age of asthma onset, atopic status, and use of oral corticosteroids.
Conclusions: Five distinct clinical phenotypes of asthma have been identified using unsupervised hierarchical cluster analysis. All clusters contain subjects who meet the American Thoracic Society definition of severe asthma, which supports clinical heterogeneity in asthma and the need for new approaches for the classification of disease severity in asthma.
asthma phenotype; definition; cluster analysis; severe asthma
There is a large amount of interindividual variability in both therapeutic and adverse responses to asthma therapies. Genetic variability may account for 50–60% of this variability. Pharmacogenomics holds out the promise of allowing clinicians to prospectively choose therapies that have the greatest likelihood to be effective for individual patients and to avoid those which may have a high likelihood of producing adverse effects. In this article we review the principals of pharmacogenomic investigation. We explore the data developed from the early pharmacogenomic studies with the most common asthma therapies. Further, we explore the potential use of pharmacogenomics and caveats in interpreting such information.
Pharmacogenomics; Asthma; Pharmacotherapy; Genetics; ADRB2; Leukotrienes; Corticosteroid; Variability
Rationale: Bronchial thermoplasty (BT) is a bronchoscopic procedure in which controlled thermal energy is applied to the airway wall to decrease smooth muscle.
Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of BT versus a sham procedure in subjects with severe asthma who remain symptomatic despite treatment with high-dose inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting β2-agonists.
Methods: A total of 288 adult subjects (Intent-to-Treat [ITT]) randomized to BT or sham control underwent three bronchoscopy procedures. Primary outcome was the difference in Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ) scores from baseline to average of 6, 9, and 12 months (integrated AQLQ). Adverse events and health care use were collected to assess safety. Statistical design and analysis of the primary endpoint was Bayesian. Target posterior probability of superiority (PPS) of BT over sham was 95%, except for the primary endpoint (96.4%).
Measurements and Main Results: The improvement from baseline in the integrated AQLQ score was superior in the BT group compared with sham (BT, 1.35 ± 1.10; sham, 1.16 ± 1.23 [PPS, 96.0% ITT and 97.9% per protocol]). Seventy-nine percent of BT and 64% of sham subjects achieved changes in AQLQ of 0.5 or greater (PPS, 99.6%). Six percent more BT subjects were hospitalized in the treatment period (up to 6 wk after BT). In the posttreatment period (6–52 wk after BT), the BT group experienced fewer severe exacerbations, emergency department (ED) visits, and days missed from work/school compared with the sham group (PPS, 95.5, 99.9, and 99.3%, respectively).
Conclusions: BT in subjects with severe asthma improves asthma-specific quality of life with a reduction in severe exacerbations and healthcare use in the posttreatment period.
Clinical trial registered with www.clinialtrials.gov (NCT00231114).
asthma; Alair Bronchial Thermoplasty System; bronchial thermoplasty; bronchoscopic procedure; Asthma Quality of Life
An important problem in realizing personalized medicine is the development of methods for identifying disease subtypes using quantitative proteomics. Recently we found that bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cytokine patterns contain information about dynamic lung responsiveness. In this study, we examined physiological data from 1048 subjects enrolled in the US Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP) to identify four largely separable, quantitative intermediate phenotypes. Upper extremes in the study population were identified for eosinophil- or neutrophil- predominant inflammation, bronchodilation in response to albuterol treatment, or methacholine sensitivity. We evaluated four different statistical (“machine”) learning methods to predict each intermediate phenotypes using BAL cytokine measurements on a 76 subject subset. Comparison of these models using area under the ROC curve and overall classification accuracy indicated that logistic regression and multivariate adaptive regression splines produced the most accurate methods to predict intermediate asthma phenotypes. These robust classification methods will aid future translational studies in asthma targeted at specific intermediate phenotypes.
Asthma; logistic regression; multivariate regression splines; quantitative phenotypes; personalized medicine