Research Notes - Study provides new hope for COPD patients

UNMC's Stephen Rennard, M.D., played a key role in a study that could change the way health professionals and patients view chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) -- the third leading cause of death in the United States.

This video story focuses on the study from the New England Journal of Medicine that offers new hope for those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
The study in the Sept. 26 online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine challenges a long-held belief that COPD always gets worse, never better.

"This is the first study to show definitively that COPD does not always get worse," said Dr. Rennard, senior author of the paper and professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine in the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine. "This study establishes that the disease can be stable, at least over a three-year time frame, and may even improve some."

A new focus

Another key finding of the study revealed that patients with moderately severe COPD on average lose lung function more quickly than those with severe COPD.

"Drug development to slow the disease has been aimed primarily at those with severe disease when those with moderate disease are losing lung function faster," Dr. Rennard said. "I think we've frequently ignored those with moderate COPD and not treated this stage of the disease aggressively. That may be a mistake."

Study findings could change the focus of treatment for COPD to emphasize identifying those with COPD earlier, Dr. Rennard said.

More work to be done

Whether specific treatments can stabilize lung function or improve it will need to be studied, Dr. Rennard said.

"This will change the way we think about the disease and is a cause for cautious optimism," Dr. Rennard said. "The key message is that it's not hopelessly progressive in everyone."


Fill out the following and your comment will post once it has been approved.

Thank you, your comment will appear below once it has been approved.

What is COPD?

COPD refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes:
  • Emphysema;
  • Chronic bronchitis; and
  • In some cases, asthma.

Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Half of those who smoke are likely to get COPD. Breathing in other kinds of irritants, like pollution, dust or chemicals, may also cause or contribute to the disease.