CINCINNATI—Researchers at the University of Cincinnati Interstitial Lung Disease Center have received a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study ways ILD first appears in certain patient groups with autoimmune diseases and how to more efficiently diagnose and treat it.
ILD is a group of diseases that affect the tissues of the lungs instead of the airways, like asthma and emphysema do. It causes scarring of the lungs, is more difficult to diagnosis and treat than other kinds of lung diseases and is often fatal.
Brent Kinder, MD, director of the ILD Center and UC Health pulmonologist, says the $715,000 K23 clinical research grant will be used to find ways for physicians to more accurately diagnose and manage ILD patients who first present with undifferentiated connective tissue disease.
This disease is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects multiple organ systems but is not developed enough for physicians to easily recognize and categorize.
Autoimmune diseases occur when the body produces abnormal cells that turn on the body and attack major organs and tissues. Connective tissue diseases include lupus, scleroderma, polymyositis, vasculitis, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren's syndrome.
"This study will look at the clinical course of the disease in patients with autoimmune ILD—using biomarkers and medical records—and will help physicians determine which treatments tend to be the most beneficial,” he says. "This research focuses on associating patient and disease characteristics with the best outcomes.”
Kinder says that although 30 to 40 percent of all ILD patients present with connective tissue disease, there is often a delay in diagnosis because of the nonspecific nature and varied time course in development of autoimmune diseases.
"If patients don’t meet criteria neatly, their illness is often treated as idiopathic, or as having an unknown cause,” he continues. "This can lead to a delayed diagnosis and allows further progression of the illness before appropriate treatment is applied. We hope to discover better ways of identifying specific groups of ILD patients who present with connective tissue diseases, find out why this occurs and raise awareness for rheumatologists and pulmonologists, whose patients may be at risk for developing ILD.”