Race Horses May Hold Key to Cure for Deadly Lung Disease Killing Humans, Horses, Other Domestic Animals

Human and Vet Researchers to Convene in Louisville, KY on 'Fibrosis Across Species'

May 20, 2013, 18:36 ET from The Fibrosis Across Species Workshop

LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Researchers from human and veterinary medicine want to know more about the lung disease that is killing horses, including thoroughbred horses and other domestic animals, just as it's claiming an increasing number of human lives – and are hoping the animals will hold a key to finding treatments faster for both.

Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) is a little known lung disease amongst most of the public, yet the disease claims as many human lives each year as breast cancer.   In addition to horses, the disease is also known to affect cats, and dogs, especially terrier breeds of dog like the West Highland White Terrier (WHWT). 

There are no approved drugs for the disease in the United States, though a drug has been approved in Japan, the European Union and Canada. 

Researchers from human and veterinary medicine plan to convene a workshop to bring together researchers to create a roadmap for comparative research in the disease.  Comparative research – or research that compares human disease to similar diseases in animals – has been used successfully in the treatment of bladder, prostate, bone and other forms of cancer.  The meeting will address comparative pathobiology of fibrosing lung disorders.

The Fibrosis Across Species meeting is slated for the week of the Kentucky Derby 2014 (April 27-29) in Louisville, KY at the University of Louisville.

"We are concerned about the growing incidence and prevalence of Pulmonary Fibrosis and realize that research done the customary way has limitations," said Jesse Roman, MD, a human PF researcher and Chair of Medicine at the University of Louisville in Louisville, KY and a leader of the meeting.  "Studying animals, in particular horses and dogs, may allow us to better understand the underlying causes of this lung disease and how to best tackle finding life-saving treatments for all affected species." 

Kurt Williams, DVM, Ph.D. is a veterinary pathologist at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University who has led research efforts in animals and has published groundbreaking work in PF in horses.  "This meeting will provide the collaborations needed to move comparative research in fibrotic lung disease forward.  I am pleased to be part of this stellar team of scientists who will review important research to date in fibrotic disease in animals and humans and will pave the path forward for innovations in science and progress in a disease area that is on the brink of major discovery." 

The Fibrosis Across Species meeting will build on the success of a 2007 meeting that brought together human and veterinary scientists to discuss similarities between the WHWT and human forms of PF.   Many of the key researchers in that meeting will be leading the Louisville meeting along with key canine organizations, including the Westie Foundation of America.

The American Thoracic Society Assembly on Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology (RCMB) supports the idea of the meeting.  Chaired by Dr. Roman, RCMB members are researchers and physicians, are interested in research that helps advance understanding of the biological basis of lung health and disease.

Dr. Roman is lead author on a white paper from the 2007 meeting slated for publication soon in a medical journal that identifies the similarities and makes strong suggestions for a path forward. One of the experts' recommendations is the convening of a meeting that fits the mold of the Fibrosis Across Species meeting.

Along with Drs. Williams and Capps, Dr. Roman is working with other key scientists and PF experts to convene the meeting including Kevin Brown, MD and Amy Olson, MD, of National Jewish Health in Denver, Dennis E. Doherty, MD, of University of Kentucky Medical Center and the Lexington Veteran's Administration hospital, Patricia Olson, DVM, and Teresa Barnes and Dolly Kervitsky, both PF advocates.

The Fibrosis Across Species meeting is currently seeking sponsors in support of the effort being convened by the WFA and partners soon to be announced.  For more information, email TeresaRBarnes@hotmail.com.  

About the Fibrosis Across Species Workshop
The Fibrosis Across Species effort includes a workshop on comparative pathobiology of fibrosing lung disorders that will bring together physicians and veterinary experts, pathologists, community advocates, and representatives of private foundations, industry and biotechnology, and federal scientific organizations.  The workshop is designed to advance knowledge in the area of lung fibrosis in domestic animals and in particular, in breeds of terrier dogs such as the West Highland White Terrier and in thoroughbred horses.

About Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF)
Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) is a lung disorder characterized by a progressive scarring – known as fibrosis -- and deterioration of the lungs, which slowly robs its victims of their ability to breathe. Approximately 128,000 Americans suffer from PF, and there is currently no known cause or cure. An estimated 48,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. PF is difficult to diagnose and an estimated two-thirds of patients die within five years of diagnosis.  Sometimes PF can be linked to a particular cause, such as certain environmental exposures, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, residual infection, or autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis. However, in many instances, no known cause can be established. When this is the case, it is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

SOURCE The Fibrosis Across Species Workshop