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1.  Classification of childhood asthma phenotypes and long-term clinical responses to inhaled anti-inflammatory medications 
Although recent studies have identified the presence of phenotypic clusters in asthmatic patients, the clinical significance and temporal stability of these clusters have not been explored.
Our aim was to examine the clinical relevance and temporal stability of phenotypic clusters in children with asthma.
We applied spectral clustering to clinical data from 1041 children with asthma participating in the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Posttreatment randomization follow-up data collected over 48 months were used to determine the effect of these clusters on pulmonary function and treatment response to inhaled anti-inflammatory medication.
We found 5 reproducible patient clusters that could be differentiated on the basis of 3 groups of features: atopic burden, degree of airway obstruction, and history of exacerbation. Cluster grouping predicted long-term asthma control, as measured by the need for oral prednisone (P < .0001) or additional controller medications (P = .001), as well as longitudinal differences in pulmonary function (P < .0001). We also found that the 2 clusters with the highest rates of exacerbation had different responses to inhaled corticosteroids when compared with the other clusters. One cluster demonstrated a positive response to both budesonide (P = .02) and nedocromil (P = .01) compared with placebo, whereas the other cluster demonstrated minimal responses to both budesonide (P = .12) and nedocromil (P = .56) compared with placebo.
Phenotypic clustering can be used to identify longitudinally consistent and clinically relevant patient subgroups, with implications for targeted therapeutic strategies and clinical trials design.
PMCID: PMC4047642  PMID: 24892144
Childhood asthma; asthma phenotypes; inhaled corticosteroids; cluster analysis; asthma classification; longitudinal study
2.  Integration of Mouse and Human Genome-Wide Association Data Identifies KCNIP4 as an Asthma Gene 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56179.
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.
PMCID: PMC3572953  PMID: 23457522
3.  Genome-Wide Association Analysis in Asthma Subjects Identifies SPATS2L as a Novel Bronchodilator Response Gene 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(7):e1002824.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3390407  PMID: 22792082
4.  In Utero Smoke Exposure and Impaired Response to Inhaled Corticosteroids in Children with Asthma 
Few studies have examined the effects of in utero smoke exposure (IUS) on lung function in children with asthma, and there are no published data on the impact of IUS on treatment outcomes in asthmatic children.
To explore whether IUS exposure is associated with increased airway responsiveness among children with asthma, and whether IUS modifies the response to treatment with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS).
To assess the impact of parent-reported IUS exposure on airway responsiveness in childhood asthma we performed a repeated-measures analysis of methacholine PC20 data from the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP), a four-year, multicenter, randomized double masked placebo controlled trial of 1041 children ages 5–12 comparing the long term efficacy of ICS with mast cell stabilizing agents or placebo.
Although improvement was seen in both groups, asthmatic children with IUS exposure had on average 26% less of an improvement in airway responsiveness over time compared to unexposed children (p=.01). Moreover, while children who were not exposed to IUS who received budesonide experienced substantial improvement in PC20 compared to untreated children (1.25 fold-increase, 95% CI 1.03, 1.50, p=.02) the beneficial effects of budesonide were attenuated among children with a history of IUS exposure (1.04 fold-increase, 95% CI 0.65, 1.68, p=.88).
IUS reduces age-related improvements in airway responsiveness among asthmatic children. Moreover, IUS appears to blunt the beneficial effects of ICS use on airways responsiveness. These results emphasize the importance of preventing this exposure through smoking cessation counseling efforts with pregnant women.
PMCID: PMC2937829  PMID: 20673983
asthma; in utero smoke exposure; airway responsiveness; inhaled corticosteroids
5.  Serum Vitamin D Levels and Severe Asthma Exacerbations in the Childhood Asthma Management Program Study 
Asthma exacerbations, most often due to respiratory tract infections, are the leading causes of asthma morbidity and comprise a significant proportion of asthma-related costs. Vitamin D status may play a role in preventing asthma exacerbations.
To assess the relationship between serum vitamin D levels and subsequent severe asthma exacerbations.
We measured 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels in serum collected from 1,024 mild to moderate persistent asthmatic children at the time of enrollment in a multi-center clinical trial of children randomized to receiving budesonide, nedocromil, or placebo (as-needed beta-agonists), the Childhood Asthma Management Program. Using multivariable modeling we examined the relationship between baseline vitamin D level and the odds of any hospitalization or emergency department (ED) visit over the 4 years of the trial.
35% of all subjects were vitamin D insufficient, as defined by a level ≤ 30 ng/ml 25(OH)D. Mean vitamin D levels were lowest in African-American subjects, and highest in whites. After adjusting for age, sex, BMI, income, and treatment group, insufficient vitamin D status was associated with a higher odds of any hospitalization or ED visit (odds ratio [OR] 1.5 [95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.1 – 1.9] P =0.01).
Vitamin D insufficiency is common in this population of North American children with mild to moderate persistent asthma, and is associated with higher odds of severe exacerbation over a four year period.
PMCID: PMC2902692  PMID: 20538327
Asthma; Vitamin D; inhaled corticosteroids; asthma exacerbations
6.  Patterns of inhaled corticosteroid use and asthma control in the Childhood Asthma Management Program Continuation Study 
Daily controller medication use is recommended for children with persistent asthma to achieve asthma control.
To examine patterns of inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) use and asthma control in an observational study of children and adolescents with mild-to-moderate asthma (the Childhood Asthma Management Program Continuation Study).
We assessed patterns of ICS use during a 12-month period (consistent, intermittent, and none) and asthma control (well controlled vs poorly controlled). Multivariate logistic regression examined the association between pattern of ICS use and asthma control.
Of 914 patients enrolled, 425 were recommended to continue receiving ICS therapy in the Childhood Asthma Management Program Continuation Study. Of these patients, 46% reported consistent ICS use and 20% reported no ICS use during year 1. By year 4, consistent ICS use decreased to 20%, whereas no ICS use increased to 57%; poorly controlled asthma was reported in 18% of encounters. In multivariate models controlling for age, sex, forced expiratory volume in 1 second, and asthma severity assessment, patients reporting consistent ICS use during a 12-month period were more likely to report poor asthma control (odds ratio, 1.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.2–2.1) compared with those reporting no ICS use.
In this observational study of children and adolescents with mild-to-moderate asthma, most did not report continued use of ICS. Patients recommended to continue receiving ICS therapy and reporting consistent ICS use were less likely to report well-controlled asthma even after controlling for markers of asthma severity. Although residual confounding by severity cannot be ruled out, many children and adolescents may not achieve well-controlled asthma despite consistent use of ICS.
PMCID: PMC3040975  PMID: 20143642
7.  Clinical Predictors and Outcomes of Consistent Bronchodilator Response in the Childhood Asthma Management Program 
Among asthmatics, bronchodilator response (BDR) to inhaled ß2- adrenergic agonists is variable, and the significance of a consistent response over time is unknown.
We assessed baseline clinical variables and determined the clinical outcomes associated with a consistently positive BDR over 4 years in children with mild-moderate persistent asthma.
In the 1,041 participants in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP), subjects with a change in FEV1 of 12% or greater (and 200mLs) after inhaled ß2 agonist at each of their yearly follow-up visits (consistent BDR) were compared with those who did not have a consistent BDR.
We identified 52 children with consistent BDR over the 4-year trial. Multivariable logistic regression modeling demonstrated that baseline pre-bronchodilator FEV1 (OR=0.71, p<0.0001), log 10 IgE level (OR=1.97, p=0.002), and lack of treatment with inhaled corticosteroids (OR=0.31, p=0.009) were associated with a consistent BDR. Individuals who had a consistent BDR had more hospital visits (p=0.007), required more prednisone bursts (p=0.0007), had increased nocturnal awakenings due to asthma (p<0.0001), and missed more days of school (p=0.03) than non-responders during the 4-year follow-up.
We have identified predictors of consistent BDR and determined that this phenotype is associated with poor clinical outcomes.
PMCID: PMC2947830  PMID: 18848350
asthma; consistent bronchodilator response; outcomes
8.  Airway Responsiveness in Mild to Moderate Childhood Asthma 
Rationale: Airway responsiveness is a prognostic marker for asthma symptoms in later life.
Objectives: To evaluate characteristics responsible for persistence of airway responsiveness in children with asthma.
Methods: A total of 1,041 children, initially aged 5–12 years, with mild to moderate persistent asthma enrolled in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) were studied prospectively for 8.6 ± 1.8 years with methacholine challenges yearly.
Measurements and Main Results: Least squares geometric mean models were fit to determine effects of sex and age on airway responsiveness (provocative concentration producing 20% decrease in FEV1 [PC20]). Multiple linear regression analysis was performed to determine factors at baseline and over time, which were associated with PC20 at end of follow-up. A total of 7,748 methacholine challenges were analyzed. PC20 increased with age, with boys having greater increase after age 11 years than girls (P < 0.001). The divergence coincided with the mean age for Tanner stage 2. Postpubertal girls had greater airway responsiveness, even after adjustment for FEV1 and other potential confounders. Although multivariable regression analyses noted a variety of factors that influenced airway responsivness in both sexes, a history of hay fever (β= −0.30, P = 0.005), respiratory allergy (β= −0.32, P = 0.006), or recent inhaled corticosteroid usage (β= −0.18, P = 0.02) were associated with decrements in final log PC20 only in girls.
Conclusions: Airway responsiveness (PC20) is more severe in the postpubertal female with asthma than in males. Although there are factors associated with airway responsiveness in both males and females, sex-specific factors may contribute to new insights into asthma pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2542438  PMID: 18420965
methacholine; PC20; FEV1; bronchoconstriction

Results 1-8 (8)