CFF Grants $1.6M to Study Lung Transplant Complications

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by Lindsey Shapiro PhD |

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The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) has awarded $1.6 million to support research focused on identifying biomarkers of chronic lung allograft dysfunction (CLAD) — a complication of lung transplants — in people with cystic fibrosis (CF).

A total of eight grants have been awarded, which will each focus on a different type of potential biomarker.

With this research, CFF hopes that CLAD diagnoses can be made sooner, leading to improved prognoses in the nearly 50% of transplant recipients who experience the condition in the first five years after transplant.

“We’re excited to fund these promising projects to help us better understand CLAD,” Albert Faro, MD, CFF’s vice president of clinical affairs, said in a press release.

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“The more we learn about what causes CLAD and how to detect it, the better equipped we will be to improve transplant outcomes for people with CF,” Faro added.

Many CF patients experience chronic lung disease, with severe lung damage sometimes requiring an eventual transplant.

CLAD encompasses a range of complications that occur when one’s body rejects a transplant, leading to an inability of the transplanted lungs to function normally. It is the most common complication leading to death in transplant recipients, and strategies to sooner detect it are greatly needed, CFF noted.

One of the funded projects, led by scientists at the University of Toronto and Columbia University, was awarded the Mitch Greenberg Memorial Award in Lung Transplantation. This team will explore the relationship between transplant rejection and digestive reflux, a condition characterized by indigestion (so-called heartburn), chest pain, and swallowing difficulties.

To do so, the researchers will examine the bile acids — digestive fluids made in the liver — found in the lungs of transplant recipients.

The awards come as part of CFF’s Lung Transplant Initiative, for which more than $40 million had been invested as of 2021. With the initiative, the foundation intends to enhance lung transplant care, increase understanding of post-transplant complications, and help advance new treatments for lung transplants, among other goals.

In collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic, CFF launched the CF Lung Transplant Consortium (CFLTC) patient registry and biorepository last year. The project’s goal is to collect clinical data and biological samples to aid scientists in better understanding CLAD and other transplant outcomes.

Of the 15 planned CFLTC sites, 14 have been opened, with more than 265 patients now enrolled, the CFF reported.

The CFF also invested $3.5 million last year to study the potential of Pulmocide, an anti-fungal treatment, to prevent post-transplant infections.

Other highlights of the initiative’s recent accomplishments include the development of consensus statements about the best practices for transplant care, checklists for identifying advanced lung disease in CF patients, and efforts to increase CF patient and community engagement in its programs.

CFF’s 2020 patient registry annual data report found a significant decline in lung transplants among CF patients — 91 people received a transplant in 2020 compared with a high of 244 in 2019.

While the trend is promising, the foundation still commits to investing in the lung transplant initiative.

“While our most recent Patient Registry report told us that fewer people with CF than average have had lung transplants in the past year, the Foundation is unwavering in its commitment to support people with CF, wherever they are on their transplant journey,” Faro said.