A nationwide clinical trial has just begun to determine whether the immune system modulator immune interferon (IFN-g) can reduce chronic airway inflammation in patients with cystic fibrosis, thereby improving their health and longevity. Richard Moss, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Stanford University Medical Center, is principal investigator for the eight-institution study.
Explaining that "antibiotics and mucous thinners haven't really delivered the knockout punch we're looking for," Moss said the trial is the first in which investigators are attempting to prevent lung damage by controlling patients' immune response to infection. Because the cytokine molecule they are using, called Actimmune (made by InterMune Pharmaceuticals Inc, one of five study sponsors, including the National Institutes of Health), is an inhalant, it should affect only immune cells in the lungs, rather than causing adverse effects—such as a flulike reaction—that have been associated with injected IFN-g. In preliminary studies, patients with tuberculosis and patients with asthma tolerated the inhaled drug well, and it did not appear to be active in the bloodstream, said Moss.
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