Warmest wishes to you and your loved ones this festive season. We extend our heartfelt thanks for your steadfast support of Breathing Matters throughout 2023. We could not have done any of this without you.
As we embrace the holiday spirit, let’s reflect on the milestones and achievements of the past year.
Milestones and Achievements
In 2023, our commitment to pulmonary fibrosis (PF) and lung infection research remained unwavering, thanks to your invaluable support.
The year started with the publication of our findings on interstitial lung disease (ILD) development in patients hospitalised with COVID-19. Collaborative efforts led by Professor Gisli Jenkins highlighted lung abnormalities in approximately 10% of patients hospitalised with COVID-19, emphasising the crucial intersection of our experience with ILD and the ongoing pandemic. Interestingly, our own clinical work suggests that these lung changes are seldom progressive and usually resolve without treatment. However, there are some people in whom COVID-19 has unmasked or accelerated a previously undiagnosed lung fibrosis; thankfully, these are the minority. Importantly, by studying the way that their lungs respond to the virus is offering important clues on why some people with a predisposition may go on to develop pulmonary fibrosis after a lung insult, such as a viral infection, that may be relatively harmless in someone else. We have been involved in several other papers on COVID-19 published this year, including an important one on using MRI scans to assess persistent damage to the internal organs after COVID-19.
The importance of vaccinations to prevent lung infections has been further demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Professor Brown continues to advise the UK government on vaccines as a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. This year, the committee suggested all elderly adults should be vaccinated with the new highly effective vaccines against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). RSV causes a flu-like illness and is a major cause of exacerbation of lung diseases, such as bronchiectasis, and we believe that introducing the RSV vaccine for general use in older adults will prevent a lot of ill health and hospital admissions.
Our focus on biomarkers and novel treatment targets in ILD yielded fascinating results, including a groundbreaking discovery that a simple blood test at the time of diagnosis can predict idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patient outcomes. We show that the neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio derived from the full blood count can tell us if patients are in a good or poor prognostic group. This is not yet ready for us to change our prognostic information for patients, but may give us new insights into the role of neutrophils, circulating white bood cells that fight infection, in pulmonary fibrosis.
We are also delighted to be pushing forward with our work on home monitoring for ILD. We are hoping that, by understanding the early changes in heart rate, exercise and oxygen saturations, we can recognise subtle changes that indicate worsening clinical condition. In this way, we hope to capture patients early in their exacerbations so that we can understand what underlies these dramatic and often rapid deteriorations and hopefully intervene.
We were thrilled to be part of the CANAL study and part of the team that showed that oral Nalbuphine (a form of non-addictive opiate) could reduce chronic cough in patients with pulmonary fibrosis. This was an early phase 2 study and a phase 3 study (CORAL) involving more patients is about to start. Let your medical team know if you are interested in taking part.
Our dedication to the C21 treatment, spanning over a decade, reached a milestone in 2023 with the results of the phase 2 study in IPF which are encouraging enough for a phase 3 study to be planned.
Clinically, we were delighted in 2023, that NICE updated their antifibrotic treatment recommendations making these medications now available for any patients with a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or with progressive pulmonary fibrosis.
2023 has been another busy year for research into lung infection, and UCL has made some important contributions. The project on Acinetobacter baumannii, a bacteria that causes highly antibiotic resistant pneumonia, received further funding from the Medical Research Council with a £1.4 million grant to develop our new antibody therapy close to the point when it could be used in clinical trials.
We also published a major piece of research on a novel approach to preventing pneumonia using genetically modified Streptococcus pneumoniae – in healthy volunteers, we demonstrated that spraying our mutant bacteria into the nose could prevent up to 45% of pneumonias caused by S. pneumoniae. This approach will take many years to be developed for clinical use, but these results are promising.
We are all increasingly aware of the impact of pollution and climate change on our patients with pulmonary fibrosis and are starting to incorporate important questions about the impact of these on patients with PF and infection in our research portfolio. Many of our patients find the hotter weather difficult for their breathing, perhaps the air becomes ‘thinner’ as it becomes warmer, so that it is as if we are at altitude even when we are at sea-level. We are worried that patients with lung disease will be one of the first groups to start suffering in the UK and we therefore urge everyone, even if not directly impacted yet, to work towards a sustainable environment and life-style.
Breathing Matters is committed to representing all our patients and their families with IPF and we will also be making even more concerted steps in 2024 to include subjects from all sectors in our research studies to reflect our wonderful diverse society and the community we serve. This will involve making our patient information sheets more accessible and understanding the barriers to research. We hope that as many of you as possible will take part.
We are often asked what can you do to help yourselves. Well we think we know the main ones – we would urge any smokers amongst you to make 2024 the year that you stop and perhaps donate some of your saved money to your favourite charities! Of course, get your immunisations, eat well, enjoy the good things of life in moderation and build regular exercise into your life.
But there is another thing. Perhaps 2024 is the year when you focus on your diaphragm – that wonderful muscle that helps you breathe. When you breathe in, your upper chest, shoulder and neck muscles should not move, but your belly should come out, just like Santa Claus. If you need some help, take a look at these fabulous videos.
Helping Breathing Matters
As we conclude 2023, we express our gratitude for your unwavering support, which remains the cornerstone of Breathing Matters. Your donations, whether one-off or regular, sustain our vital research efforts. In a challenging financial climate for health charities, your contributions enable us to weather the
storm and continue our groundbreaking work.
Visit our online shop for unique merchandise, including personalised items ideal for gifts and awareness. Explore our collection of Christmas cards and cards for all occasions here.
Reflecting on the year, thank you to those of you who attended our Christmas concert on 8th December 2023, marking our first face-to-face gathering since 2019.
Special recognition goes to Peter Tenenbaum and Gloria Matz for their 10th anniversary charity bike ride in memory of one of our beloved forefathers, Lawrence Matz – details here.
In the spirit of #Breathtember, we encourage you to step up for awareness and consider participating in events, such as the Yosemite to San Fran cycle or the Great Wall of China trek. Explore our fundraising page for inspiration and ideas.
Before we bid farewell to 2023, we take a moment to remember those we’ve lost to pulmonary fibrosis, COVID-19, bronchiectasis, or other respiratory conditions. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with those spending their first Christmas without their loved ones.
As Christmas approaches, indulge in the festive spirit with mince pies and have a read of our updated ILD Impact Report to see what you have funded in ILD research.
We would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas
and here’s to a healthy and happy New Year!
From everyone at Breathing Matters