U Seeks Patients with Rare Lung Disease for Trial of Drug that May Prolong Survival

U Seeks Patients with Rare Lung Disease for Trial of Drug that May Prolong Survival

Jan 5, 2005 5:00 PM

A University of Utah physician is seeking volunteers to join a four-year trial of a drug that may help prolong survival for people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis--an inflammation of the air sacs and tissue that scars the lungs and has no known cure.

Mary Beth Scholand, M.D., a lung specialist at the U of U School of Medicine, is looking for 10 people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis to participate in the trial of Interferon gamma-1b. A naturally occurring substance in the bodys immune system, Interferon gamma-1b is used to treat some cancers. But there is evidence it may also prevent scarring of the lungs caused by idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Trial participants, who must be between the ages of 40 and 79, will receive three shots a week for two years. They may receive Interferon gamma-1b, or a placebo. Neither Scholand nor the trial participants will know who gets the drug or placebo.

Participants will be required to see Scholand every couple of weeks for the first six weeks, less often after that, and keep a diary of their symptoms. The trial is focused on what can be done when idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is caught early, and Scholand is particularly interested in recruiting patients in the initial stages of the disease.

The trial, sponsored by InterMune, a California biopharmaceutical company, eventually will enroll 600 participants nationwide. The University of Utah is one of 70 medical centers participating.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis usually strikes people in their mid-60s or older, but it can occur in much younger people. Symptoms include shortness of breath, dry cough, and crackling in the lungs detectable through a stethoscope. An estimated 50 of every 100,000 people have the disease.

The average life expectancy is three to five years from diagnosis.

People interested in joining the U of U trial can call 581-5864.

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