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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Renewed hope for asthma sufferers

Hunter residents suffering from asthma have renewed hope of finding effective treatments.

A team of researchers has been awarded a $2.5 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The team is headed up by University of Newcastle Faculty of Health and Medicine Professor Vanessa McDonald, who also works at the New Lambton-based Centre of Research Excellence in Asthma Treatable Traits (CREATT).

Asthma affects 300 million people worldwide, with one in nine Australians suffering from the disease.

Professor McDonald’s team at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) aims to improve the approaches to asthma and investigate personalised attitudes to treatment, which could potentially positively impact those who suffer from the disease.

“Advances in the treatment for asthma over the past 30 years, both in terms of asthma medicines and self-management initiatives, have led to significant improvements in health outcomes for many Australians,” Professor McDonald said.

“However, these gains have stalled and, in order to see further improvement, we need to investigate new therapeutic approaches to this disease.”

The personalised, tailored method of treatment is a break from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that Professor McDonald says “doesn’t cut it”.

This new approach, know as the ‘Treatable Traits’ model, tries to take into account many of the other factors that come into play with asthma.

“We understand that ‘traits’ or co-existing factors such as having vocal cord dysfunction, being physically inactive and experiencing side-effects of treatment from excessive use of corticosteroids all influence how a person experiences asthma as well as how effective various treatments are,” Professor McDonald added.

“We also know that people with different levels of disease severity or special groups such as pregnant women with asthma have different disease profiles and differing needs.”

Professor McDonald explained that an individualised approach to care aims to limit exposure to ineffective treatments that may have harmful or unwanted side-effects, which will hopefully lead to better management strategies in regard to asthma.

University of Newcastle Vice President and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation Professor, Janet Nelson, praised the project as an innovative solution to a pervasive public health matter.

“Professor McDonald and her team have an impressive research record in the area of respiratory diseases,” she said.

“By working in partnership with other Australian and international organisations and institutes, this project will deliver better health outcomes for our communities, which is a huge priority for our university.”

The research program will start in November.

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