Vermont Lung Center Director and Professor of Medicine Charlie Irvin poses at the Airways Clinical Research Center 20th anniverary celebration on the UVM Medical Center's Fanny Allen campus. (Courtesy photo)
Twenty years ago, a small local chapter of the American Lung Association (ALA) took on the daring task of bringing an Airways Clinical Research Center (ACRC) to Vermont. On February 28, clinicians, patients, donors, staff and board members gathered to celebrate two decades of lung disease treatment research in the only ACRC in a rural area, one of 17 across the U.S.
The Vermont Lung Center at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont (UVM) has been at the forefront of lung health as a charter member of the ALA ACRCs – the nation’s largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma and COPD treatment. Clinical trials are the primary way that researchers find out if a new treatment is safe and effective. The ACRC network, which now includes 17 centers, 24 trial sites, a data coordinating center at Johns Hopkins University and hundreds of pulmonary specialists, is on the cutting edge of improving patients’ lives and is dedicated to improving treatment for those living with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“It’s vital for those suffering from lung disease to have access to the best treatment options available, including the 59,000 asthma patients and 32,600 COPD patients living here in Vermont,” said Charles Irvin, Ph.D., director of the Vermont Lung Center, principal investigator for the ACRC, and a UVM professor of medicine. “Through the Airways Clinical Research Centers network, we are able to participate and coordinate with large clinical trials that directly impact patient care. We are proud to partner with the American Lung Association to advance research to improve the quality of life for those living with COPD and asthma here locally and nationwide.”
The ACRC had early success in 2001, when its first major research study found that the flu vaccine was safe for both children and adults with asthma. At the time, many asthma physicians and patients believed the flu shot would worsen their asthma symptoms, so only 10 percent of those with asthma were getting the vaccine. Based on the ACRC findings, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention changed their flu shot recommendations to include everyone six months of age and older.
Over the past 20 years the ACRC network has worked together to conduct 12 clinical trials and 4 observational studies that have resulted in over 85 manuscripts published in high impact peer-reviewed journals.
“By studying new treatment options with patients across the United States, we can be really sure that we are finding solutions that will be effective for our entire population,” said Anne Dixon, M.A., B.M., B.Ch., UVM professor of medicine and chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.
(This article was adapted from a press release prepared by the American Lung Association’s Marketing & Communications office.)