Searching for Commonalities between Two Deadly Lung Diseases
Posted Mar 11 2010 8:01am
A computed tomography (CT) image of airways in the lung of a patient with COPD. Inflammation around the airways appears white in the image (sample areas of inflammation indicated by red arrows). Airway inflammation caused by COPD has been suggested as a potential mechanism leading to lung cancer development. (Image courtesy of the COPDGene Project)
Despite enormous strides in tobacco education during the last few decades, more than 20 percent of adult Americans still smoke, and tobacco use causes more than 400,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. The majority of these tobacco-related deaths are caused by two diseases: lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These diseases often occur together in patients.
“With a background of tobacco exposure, you have several disease pathways that are studied separately even if they co-exist,” explained Dr. Eva Szabo, chief of NCI’s Lung and Upper Aerodigestive Cancer Research Group in the Division of Cancer Prevention.
“Having COPD is a risk factor for lung cancer,” said Dr. Antonello Punturieri, program director in the Division of Lung Diseases at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). “Many patients have moderate and often severe COPD in addition to lung cancer. But we don’t understand how tobacco exposure may lead to only COPD, or only lung cancer but not COPD, or COPD and lung cancer.”
Until recently, scientists have tended to study either lung cancer or COPD. But that is beginning to change. More laboratories are now looking at the complicated interplay between the two diseases and their risk factors, including smoking. more…