Retinoic Acid Being Tested As Possible Emphysema Treatment

in Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine
April 24th, 2001

Contact: Gina M. Digravio, 617-638-8491 |

(Boston, Mass.) — Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researchers are embarking on a first-of-its-kind drug study of a treatment that may reverse the damaging effects of emphysema. The Feasibility of Retinoid Therapy for Emphysema (FORTE) study, is a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) funded clinical trial that will test retinoic acid, a vitamin A derivative, in treating emphysema.

In 1997, NHLBI-funded scientists reported that retinoic acid had reversed emphysema in the lungs of laboratory rats. A workshop of pulmonary experts organized by the NHLBI shortly thereafter agreed that more information about the biologic effects and safety of retinoic acid in emphysema patients was needed before undertaking large-scale clinical trials. The three-year FORTE Study will investigate the biologic effects and safety profile of retinoic acid treatment in patients with emphysema, providing information that may ultimately be used to design large clinical trials to definitively evaluate the effectiveness of retinoic acid in treating emphysema. “Emphysema is a devastating disease, and treatment options are extremely limited,” said George O’Connor, MD, MS, an associate professor of medicine at BUSM and principal investigator of the study.

“We hope this study will provide us with a new option that will relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for emphysema patients in our community.”

Emphysema is a lung disease that affects millions Americans, most of them longtime smokers over the age of 45. Emphysema and other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States each year and account for more than $2.5 billion in annual health care costs.

The other centers participating in FORTE include: Columbia University, New York City; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, San Diego; and University of Pittsburgh.

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