Our Christmas and New Year Message

We hope that you and your families are all well and have survived 2020.  Thank you all so much for supporting us during this tough time.

It has been a strange year and a very busy one.  In March, many of our research staff took up the call to work on the frontline and the rest of the team worked hard on COVID-19 clinical studies to find life-saving treatments.

COVID-19 is a Respiratory disease, one that especially affects the Respiratory tract, and we are beginning to learn more about the lungs through this research.

It is clear that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (that causes COVID) is unusual.  It can affect the blood vessels resulting in a constellation of symptoms. One of the startling findings is that we are seeing new pulmonary fibrosis develop in about 6 of every 100 COVID patients that are admitted to hospital, and in around 3 in 100 of those treated in the community with mild COVID. It also appears to worsen fibrosis in patients who already have lung fibrosis, so access to the vaccine for our patients with pulmonary fibrosis is vital.  We are particularly interested in why some people get fibrosis after COVID and others don’t and we hope this will provide crucial insights into the whole spectrum of pulmonary fibrosis. We are closely following nearly 1000 patients who were admitted to UCLH with COVID or who been referred to us with breathing problems after COVID infection. Understanding how many get better, and how many have progressive fibrosis is critical for patients and the NHS to plan ahead.

Unfortunately, even after getting rid of the virus, many patients will continue to have symptoms that can be very debilitating. Breathing Matters has supported the national Urgent Public Health study, PHOSP-COVID. This study will discover what the long-term effects on health might be after being hospitalised with COVID-19 infection.

We have of course also been deeply committed to helping in delivering trials of new vaccines at UCLH. It is wonderful that we have not only one, but maybe as many as three different effective vaccines. We are hopeful that widespread vaccination will bring us all a return to normality in 2021.

Of course through all this, the main thing that has kept Breathing Matters and the team going is your vital, continuous and unwavering support.  Many health charities have seen dramatic reductions in income over 2020 with little respite in 2021. We hope that by keeping our overheads as low as possible and bringing in funding from other sources, and with your help, we can weather this storm.

Fundraising has taken a back seat this year with fundraising events, including the London Marathon and the Prudential Ride London cancelled.  However, we do have plenty of virtual events to whet your fundraising appetite, including a Virtual Christmas Concert given by the excellent Holst Singers. If you want to plan a future challenge overseas in 2021/2022, we have plenty of amazing events including the Northern Lights Trek in Iceland, Yosemite to San Fran cycle and a trek around the Great Wall of China. For inspiration, take a look at our Events Page.

In January, Breathing Matters will be 10 years old.  We have come a long way in a decade.  Particular highlights have included the following:

  • Our development of relative non-invasive cryoscopic lung biopsy as an alternative to chest surgery to biopsy the lung, to make a confident diagnosis of fibrosis and rule out other conditions that would require different treatments.
  • Our findings that FDG-PET scans can detect the changes of early lung fibrosis before a regular CT scan and may provide a very sensitive way to measure response to therapy in patients with pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Our 10 year collaboration with Vicore which will see a new drug (C21) being tested in patients with IPF with a study set to start recruiting in early 2021.
  • Our understanding of the role of the white blood cells, neutrophils, in the development of pulmonary fibrosis which may lead to novel blood biomarkers to assess patients most at risk and help us develop novel approaches to therapy.
  • Participation in the multicentre Bronch UK research project which includes around ten hospitals across the UK. This is the first such study and will help us learn a lot more about bronchiectasis and how best to treat it.
  • Completion of two phase I trials of novel vaccines against Streptococcus pneumoniae, the commonest cause of pneumonia, partly or wholly developed by Professor Brown’s laboratory.
  • Published important data on how common bronchiectasis is in the UK, showing that, far from being a disease that is dying out, it is increasingly common and is associated with an increase in mortality including perhaps surprisingly from diseases of the heart and large blood vessels. These data are quoted by all the major guidelines for bronchiectasis and have helped promote awareness of the disease as well as shown the high need for further research.

In 2021, we will focus back on our pulmonary fibrosis and lung infection work with renewed vigour and with the firm belief that, as a community, we can overcome anything if we all do our bit.

If you would like to donate to support our research, you can do this via our JustGiving Page. Thank you to our regular donors that make such a difference to our research and enables us to plan our future projects.  If you are interesting in giving regularly, please read our article.

Thank you all for your vital support.  Together we have hope and together we are stronger.

We would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and here’s to a healthier New Year!

From Everyone at Breathing Matters