A panel of blood proteins can predict which patients with the progressive lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) are likely to live at least five years or to die within two years, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Centocor R&D. The findings, published online on October 20, 2011 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, could help doctors determine those patients in imminent need of a lung transplant and those who can wait a while longer. Fifty percent of IPF patients die within three years of diagnosis, but others will do well for long periods of time, explained investigator Dr. Naftali Kaminski, professor of medicine, pathology, human genetics, and computational biology, Pitt School of Medicine, and director, The Dorothy P. & Richard P. Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). In the disease, breathing becomes increasingly impaired as the lungs progressively scar. "It's hard to tell based on symptoms alone which patients are in the greatest danger," Dr. Kaminski said. "This biomarker panel has predictive power that can guide our treatment plan. It may also help us design more effective research trials because we'll be able to better match experimental therapies with the most appropriate patients." The research team collected blood samples from 241 IPF patients. They measured the levels of 92 candidate proteins in 140 patients and found that high concentrations of five particular proteins that are produced by the breakdown of lung tissue predicted poor survival, poor transplant-free survival, and poor progression-free survival regardless of age, sex, and baseline pulmonary function. They then confirmed the results in a second group of 101 patients.
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