Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. COPD is a chronic lung disease characterized by progressive limitations of the airflow in and out of the lungs, and increased shortness of breath as the disease progresses. It is often diagnosed after some lung capacity is already lost and therefore not fully reversible.
Last year, scientists made several significant genetic discoveries related to lung health. These findings provide new insight into the molecular basis of disease like COPD which researchers say could lead to new therapies.
Medicines in the current pipeline include:
Repairing Lung Tissue – An adult human stem cell therapy in development has shown in clinical trials to decrease levels of a protein found in the blood that is often elevated in response to inflammatory disease. The stem cells are isolated from healthy adult donors and have the ability to engraft and selectively differentiate into various types of tissue. In COPD, the stem cell therapy leads to lung tissue repair through release of tissue specific growth factors.
Underlying Inflammation – A medicine in development for COPD targets the disease-causing inflammation. It is an antagonist of the chemokine receptor (CXCR2) that potentially can reduce inflammation in COPD by inhibiting the activity of white blood cells (neutrophils) in response to lung tissue damage. When over-activated, these cells can result in additional tissue damage by releasing proteases, stimulating mucus secretion and other negative lung events.
Greater Efficacy – Several medicines in development are fixed-dose combinations of two or more medicines. One is a combination of two long-acting medicines with different biological actions. Both act to relax smooth muscles in the bronchial passages leading to improved lung function for up to 24 hours allowing for once-daily dosing.
Pathway to Inflammation – A human monoclonal antibody in development targets the interleukin-1 (IL-1) receptor pathway, a cytokine that contributes to airway inflammation often associated with COPD.