Magazine article Science News

Ibuprofen Stalls Advance of Cystic Fibrosis

Magazine article Science News

Ibuprofen Stalls Advance of Cystic Fibrosis

Article excerpt

Heavy daily doses of a leading over-the-counter drug for arthritis can dramatically retard the progressive and ultimately lethal lung deterioration that characterizes cystic fibrosis, a new study finds. However, the novel treatment's benefits appear to be restricted largely to children.

Respiratory infections plague individuals with cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease that fills the lungs with mucus. To fight the bacteria and other microbial invaders behind those infections, the body recruits a host of different agents, including neutrophils -- a class of white blood cells that functions as the immune system's rapid-deployment commandos. Unfortunately, lung tissue often succumbs to friendly fire from those neutrophils.

About 10 years ago, a team of Cleveland-based researchers began investigating the potential for ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal, anti- inflammatory drug, to shield the lungs of CF patients from the neutrophils' ravages. In the March 30 New England Journal of Medicine, they report its success in a double-blind study involving 85 patients between the ages of 5 and 39.

Reasoning that the anti-inflammatory therapy would work best where little permanent structural damage had occurred, the researchers restricted their trial to patients with only mild lung deterioration. Throughout the 4-year study, they charted lung function with a series of assays. Chief among them was FEV1, the volume of air an individual can forcefully expel in 1 second.

Healthy children should experience no FEV1 change from year to year, notes pediatric pulmonologist Michael W. …

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