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John Fitzgerald, M.D. Answers Questions On Interstitial Lung Diseases (ILDs)

John Fitzgerald, M.D. Answers Questions On: Interstitial Lung Diseases (ILDs)

What do interstitial lung diseases (ILDs) have in common?

The interstitial space is a compartment within the lung located between the alveoli, or air sacs, and the network of capillary blood vessels that surround the air sacs to allow for gas exchange.

Normally, there are very few proteins or cells located within this interstitial space. But, in this wide variety of medical conditions grouped as ILD, individuals can develop abnormal inflammation or scarring there.

So, while these diseases have very different presentations, they all are focused in this particular compartment within the lung.

How does UT Southwestern’s involvement in IPFnet help patients?

IPFnet, or the Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Network, is an NIH-funded consortium of 26 interstitial lung disease centers around the country. It’s dedicated to conducting large-scale treatment trials for a disease that now has poor outcomes and no current FDA-approved therapies.

UT Southwestern has been one of the most actively enrolling sites for the IPFnet clinical trials since its inception. We’ve just completed enrollment on the third of the three IPFnet trials, called the PANTHER trial.

Fibrosis is scarring. And just like scarring anywhere else in your body, it can’t be reversed. We want to find a therapy that can slow an otherwise progressive disease that uniformly culminates in the death of the patient.

Why is it important for patients to come to you for information about ILDs?

Among the 100 or more ILDs, there is broad variation in how a disease may manifest within an individual, so we encourage people to bring questions they have about their disease to us.

When people are given a diagnosis, they often get a paucity of information about the condition, and they are usually forced to do self-directed research.

Inevitably, they zero in on horror stories from people communicating their trials and tribulations. And they have no ability to separate out the information they may encounter online that applies to them versus the information that doesn’t apply. That tends to stir up a lot of consternation and fear – which may not be warranted.