(PHILADELPHIA) — Researchers at the University
of Pennsylvania School of Medicine are now studying an investigational treatment
that may offer a significant new, minimally-invasive option for
those suffering from advanced widespread emphysema. The EASE (Exhale
Airway Stents for Emphysema) trial focuses on a procedure called
bypass that involves creating pathways in the lung for trapped
air to escape -- and in turn, may relieve emphysema symptoms including
shortness of breath.
Emphysema, most often brought on by smoking, affects an estimated
60 million people worldwide with more than 3 million sufferers
in the United States. There is no cure. It’s a chronic, progressive,
and irreversible lung
disease characterized by the destruction
of lung tissue. The loss of the lungs' natural elasticity and the
collapse of airways in the lung combine so that the lungs can no
longer deflate to let air in. The patient is in a permanent state
of “breathlessness” – sucking in rapid, shallow
breaths. Even the most nominal physical activities become difficult
for emphysema patients and many become dependent on oxygen therapy.
“There are limited treatment options right now for these
patients who struggle for each breath,” comments John
Kucharczuk, MD, principal investigator, thoracic surgeon, and Assistant Professor
of Surgery at Penn. “This new, cutting-edge, non-surgical
procedure actually creates new pathways for airflow and could offer
another option for those who would otherwise possibly spend years
waiting on a lung
During the airway bypass procedure, physicians first use a Doppler probe inserted through a flexible bronchoscope (a commonly used
way to go through the mouth and into the lungs to examine the airways)
to identify sites away from blood vessels. Then the physician creates
new small pathways using a special needle to make small openings.
Stents are then put in place to keep the new passageways open.
The procedure involves placing up to six Exhale® Drug-Eluting
Stents – manufactured by Broncus
Technologies, Inc. – to
allow the trapped air in the lung to escape. Again, it is hoped
this will deflate the lungs, by essentially creating a few new
unobstructed air pathways, so that the patient can breathe more
easily. The total time of the procedure is approximately one to
Daniel Sterman, MD, co-principal investigator of the study and
Director of Interventional
Pulmonology at Penn, states, “This
experimental technique could be revolutionary as it is the only
approach being examined right now which targets the population
of emphysema patients whose disease has destroyed tissue throughout
the lung -- and not just the upper lung zones. This technique would
help those who do not appear to benefit from lung volume reduction surgery.”
Sterman adds, “Given that emphysema is such a devastating
disease associated with permanent destruction of the small air
sacs (alveoli) which allow the lungs to function -- any new potential
intervention could offer substantial relief to the millions of
sufferers in this country.”
Editor’s Notes: Drs. John Kucharczuk and
Daniel Sterman have no personal direct financial affiliation with
Broncus Technologies, Inc.
The study is sponsored by Broncus Technologies,
Dr. Joel Cooper does have a financial interest in Broncus
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