Why Invest in Lung Health Research?
1 in 5 Canadians have lung disease. COPD is the number one cause of hospitalization in Canada, asthma affects at least 13% of our children and lung cancer kills more people than breast, ovarian, colon and prostate combined.
Our lifestyle is breeding dangerous pollutants and irritants that can damage our airways. Environmental toxins, allergens and chemicals are attacking our lungs. Even within our own four walls, radon and mould pose hidden risks. Between contaminants, second-hand smoke, sleep disorders, and an aging population, we can’t ignore the growing challenges of lung disease.
The rapid growth of chronic disease is costing us dearly in terms of lives and quality of life but also our economic well-being. It is estimated that chronic lung diseases costs the Canadian economy $12 billion.
We are collectively responsible for creating the breathing breakdown and we need to collectively create the breathing breakthrough. The Lung Association is leading the way, advocating for change and strengthening our voice.
Legacy Research Grant - Award Winners
Just as our lungs operate in tandem, we need to work together in our province to tackle the common challenges of breathing. Our Legacy Research Grant supplies seed funding to Researchers in Nova Scotia who are looking to undertake important respiratory research that will have an impact on the lives of Nova Scotians living with lung disease. Here are a few of their stories:
2018 Recipient - Dr. Zhenyu Cheng - Boosting Host Immunity to fight against Pseudomonas aeruginosa lung infection
Pictured above: LANS President & CEO, Robert MacDonald, Dr. Zhenyu Cheng, and LANS Board Chair, Linda Gregory
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and adolescents. It is caused by mutations in the gene for the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein. Cystic fibrosis is a complex disease with a diverse range of symptoms, which mainly affect the lungs. It is estimated that one in every 3,600 children born in Canada has cystic fibrosis. In Nova Scotia, the IWK Health Centre Pediatric CF Clinic follows approximately 105
patients with CF in the Maritime Provinces. In spite of significant progress in treating this disease, there is still no cure for CF and currently available CFTR modulator drugs can only be used to alleviate the symptoms of a small subset of patients with specific mutations in the CFTR gene. Moreover, these drugs cost $300,000/year, which limits access and challenges the publically-funded health care system in Nova Scotia.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a ubiquitous Gram-negative opportunistic bacterial pathogen that causes infections when normal immune defenses are disrupted. One of the main problems faced by CF patients is inflammation in the lung caused by persistent P. aeruginosa infections. This causes destruction of lung tissue and loss of lung function, eventually leading to death in the majority of CF patients. No vaccine is available for this bacterium and treatment is difficult due to multidrug resistance. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop a novel therapeutic strategy.
Dr. Cheng and his team identified a novel therapeutic strategy for treating P. aeruginosa infections by enhancing human immunity. The use of host target for antibacterial therapy has the advantage of avoiding selection pressure on bacterial pathogen, therefore limiting the emergence of drug resistance. The objective of the proposed research is to characterize the underlying mechanism by which host immune signaling is clustered efficiently to fend against bacterial infection. This study will shed new light on the organization of host immune signaling networks. This knowledge, in turn, will facilitate the practical application in fighting P. aeruginosa infection.
Going forward, this research program will lead to the development of an innovative approach to eradicate chronic P. aeruginosa infection in CF patients. More importantly, this project will both contribute positively to the health outcomes of Nova Scotians with CF, and identify low-cost alternative treatments that could alleviate financial burden on the publically-funded Nova Scotian health care system.
Pictured Above: Lung Association President & CEO Robert MacDonald (left), presenting the Legacy Research Grant to Dr. Daria Mano (middle) and Dr. Candice Crocker (right)
Doctor Daria Manos & Team - Investigating lung cancer screening in Nova Scotia
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death and patients most often are diagnosed at a late stage when there is no chance of a cure. Lung cancer screening has the potential to reduce deaths from lung cancer and offers hope for fearful patients and their physicians. Unfortunately, however, the screening test has considerable potential for harm and therefore is only recommended in people who meet strict risk criteria. In addition, the benefit to an individual participant is quite low even if they meet very specific high risk criteria.
For these reasons, national recommendations are that even people who qualify for screening have a frank and open discussion with their physicians to determine if screening is the right choice for them. There is no formal lung cancer screening program in Nova Scotia but screening is being requested by family physicians. This disconnect between requests from primary care physicians and the radiology department at NSHA has led to an informal screening process taking place. This situation is not optimal for Nova Scotians.
Lung cancer screening with computed tomography (CT) carries with it the risk of overdiagnosis, and excessive unnecessary follow-up medical testing as well as the risks from unnecessary radiation exposure. Research has shown that this informal screening has led to screening in people who do not meet criteria for benefit. It’s possible that individuals undergoing screening may not be aware of the true risks and benefits of screening.
The Legacy Research Grant has been awarded to Dr. Daria Manos, whose research will examine informed decision making as it relates to lung cancer screening. Surveys will be conducted and patients will be interviewed to determine whether patients who are referred for low dose CT for lung cancer screening, have a complete understanding of the testing that they are receiving, and the associated risks.
As part of this research, physicians will also be interviewed to determine their reasons and understanding of the state of lung cancer screening at the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
Information collected through this research will then be used to create a new requisition form that provides support for and encourages shared-decision making discussions around lung cancer screening. Training workshops will be arranged to inform physicians about the process around CT lung cancer screening, and information resources will be created for patients, to better explain the pros and cons of screening.
Pictured above: Dr. Geoff Maksym Dr. Geoff Maksym & Team - Airwave Oscillometry
Over the years, donor support has allowed us to invest funds into local research that has had a direct impact on the lives of Nova Scotians living with lung issues.
Our Legacy Research Grant is awarded each year to a local researcher that is involved in lung health research that will help improve the lives of Nova Scotians.
Doctor Geoff Maksym received a Legacy Research Grant from the Lung Association of Nova Scotia to conduct a study related to his work on Airwave Oscillometry™, a method for measuring lung function
without the patient effort that is needed in a spirometry test.
“It’s like a spirometer, where patients inhale their total lung capacity and then are asked to exhale as hard and as fast as they can, but much easier for the patient,” explained Dr. Maksym.
“The spirometer technique works very well for people who can do the maneuver but for people who can’t, such as young children or elderly patients, it’s easier if we can create a technique where they don’t have to blow the air through.”
So Dr. Maksym and his team set about to create such a device. The outcome was the tremoFlo™ C-100, which is a device that reduces the patient effort needed for an accurate reading.
Dr. Maksym received a total of three Legacy Research Grants for his ongoing work in lung health, which he has credited with helping him collect data and supporting his research in Airwave Oscillometry™.
“These grants get you started,” he said. “They’re like establishment grants. And those are very important, especially for the new researchers or for the more established researchers who are doing something in a new direction for which they don’t have preliminary data. The support we receive
from the Lung Association of Nova Scotia has been very helpful.”
Dr. John Frampton - Analyzing Lung Tissue Contraction after asthma treatment
Pictured above: Dr. John Frampton
Dr. Frampton and his team are growing airway smooth muscle cells in a rich 3D environment, where they can control airway tone and constriction. The overall goal of his project is to understand how smooth muscle cells of the airway interact with
their environment and neighboring cells in asthma using state-of-the-art methods to make living models of lung tissue in the laboratory.
Current methods for studying these cells outside of the lung rely on rigid two-dimensional supports for growing the cells, which lead to alterations in cell behavior, and potentially, misleading data. Dr. Frampton and his team designed a 3D environment for growing these cells that reflects the complexity of lung tissue and is more predictive of intact lung tissue responses to asthma triggers and medications.
There are currently no laboratory cell culture models that are adequate for studying complex lung diseases such as asthma. Existing systems for studying the effect of lung disease treatments are overly simplified and do not take into account the 3D
properties of lung tissue that influence the interplay between the cell types that are important for lung function. Thus, there is a significant gap between lung cell culture models and intact lung tissue that limits the ability of scientists to develop and test new treatments. An improved lung tissue model will help speed the development of new treatments for lung diseases such as asthma and open the possibility for patient-oriented disease models produced from patient cells.
Click HERE to see a video about John Frampton and his research
National Respiratory Research Strategy
To strengthen lung research in Canada and make a real difference in the lives of those affected by lung disease, the Canadian Lung Association has developed the National Respiratory Research Strategy.
The mission of the National Respiratory Research Strategy is to provide national leadership for research, training, network and knowledge translation programs to promote the prevention and treatment of respiratory diseases and enhance the health of all Canadians.
Together with our partners, we will work together to achieve our mission by:
- Establishing a well-resourced national research infrastructure
- Nurturing a new generation of researchers
- Supporting and leveraging new knowledge, innovation and expertise
- Evaluating, synthesizing and disseminating existing evidence
- Facilitating the implementation of innovative best practices across jurisdictions
- Measuring and reporting on the impact of respiratory diseases in Canada