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April 2008 Issue

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Lung Center Gives Patients More Options

By Katie Pence
Published April 2008

Carlos Gibson, 67, says he lives every day to its fullest.

This is because roughly two years ago he was told he only had two to three years to live.

“I was pretty upset when the doctors told me I had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF),” Gibson says. “I just have to put it in God’s hands and keep my head up.”

Although IPF and other interstitial lung diseases (ILD) may not be as well known as other lung ailments, experts say they are serious illnesses that affect people all over the world. 

“ILD includes a number of different diseases, including IPF, that affect the tissues of the lungs instead of the airways, like asthma and emphysema do,” says Brent Kinder, MD, assistant professor of medicine at UC.

ILD causes scarring of the lungs and is more difficult to diagnosis and treat than other kinds of lung diseases, says Kinder. It is often fatal, like in Gibson’s diagnosis.

IPF also causes scarring of the lungs. As the disease progresses, fibrotic scar tissue replaces air sacs in the lungs. Lung tissue becomes thicker where the scarring forms, causing an irreversible loss of the tissue’s ability to carry oxygen into the bloodstream.

Gibson was first diagnosed with IPF in 2006.

“I was having some back pain on the right side, and I went through a number of tests to find out what was wrong,” he says. “I even had acupuncture done to try to relieve some of the pain.”

He says a CT scan revealed that he had some fibrosis in his lungs, but he wasn’t worried.

“My doctor told me that everyone gets a little fibrosis with age,” he says.

But when the pain persisted a year later, Gibson knew something was still wrong. 

“I had a lung biopsy done and it came back positive for IPF,” he says.

To improve treatment for patients like Gibson, a team of UC physicians, led by Kinder, Frank McCormack, MD, and Ralph Panos, MD, all of the pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine division, have established the Interstitial Lung Disease Center at UC. It’s aimed at creating a multidisciplinary system for doctors to discuss diagnosis and treatment options for patients in need.

The center, located in the Medical Arts Building, is one of only 13 of its kind in the country.

“We hope to form a connection with pulmonologists and rheumatologists in the community and share state-of-the-art approaches to diagnosis and treatment with one another,” says Kinder, director of the center. “We also want to provide community practitioners with second opinions for challenging disease management or diagnostic issues.”

Doctors in the areas of pathology, radiology and rheumatology will be part of the center’s staff and will meet regularly at conferences to discuss their ideas.

“It will present an opportunity for physicians and researchers to sit down together and come up with new ways to approach challenging diseases,” says Kinder.

Kinder adds that the center is also a way for area doctors to hear about ongoing clinical trials at UC that could benefit patients who have not found successful treatments.

“It will provide more options,” he says. “We will be able to provide more accurate diagnoses, which could help a patient live longer and have a better quality of life.”

Gibson has been involved in a drug clinical trial since his diagnosis, which he hopes has helped slow the effects of the IPF on his lungs. 

“Although he’s participating in a blind trial study, we believe he is receiving the real drug, versus a placebo, based of the side effects he’s experiencing” says Heather Gibson, Carlos’ wife.

“It’s encouraging because we have hope in the effect of the drug, but we don’t know if it’s truly slowing the progression of his disease, or if his individual disease state is at a slower progression anyway. Every patient is different.

“Either way, we are hopeful, and we are keeping our trust in the Lord,” she says.

“My back pain is nothing like it used to be,” adds Gibson. “Not only do I feel better, but I’m hopeful that this study will allow me to have more time to live life.”

Gibson retired from his job at the Internal Revenue Service after being diagnosed, and now he takes time to enjoy the things he loves the most.

“I’m a fisherman, so I cherish the time I spend on the lake,” he says, adding that he also enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.

He says the ILD center at UC will be crucial in advancing treatment for others like him.

“I think it’s important to get the word out,” he says. “Research could bring about new treatments and save the lives of people living with these lung diseases.”

For more information on the UC ILD center, visit www.uclung

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