January 30, 2015

UAB named to national pulmonary fibrosis care network

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lungThe University of Alabama at Birmingham has been added to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Care Center Network as part of a major expansion of that network. The PFF announced the selection of 12 new sites to join the original nine sites selected in 2013.

The PFF Care Center Network, which now boasts 21 sites in 20 states, comprises the leading medical centers with specific expertise in treating interstitial lung diseases and pulmonary fibrosis, a group of lung disorders including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), that often are difficult to diagnose and manage and that are associated with survival rates of less than five years following diagnosis in certain diseases.  

The UAB Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, under the leadership of division director Victor Thannickal, M.D., has become a leading research and clinical care site for pulmonary fibrosis. The division’s research programs include multiple NIH-funded grants, including a program project grant focused on developing novel therapies for IPF, that have grown to almost $4 million per year. The Interstitial Lung Disease clinic in The Kirklin Clinic now follows as many as 500 patients, with an estimated 200 new patients per year.

“Due to the geographic location of UAB, the growth of the research enterprise and the availability of new drugs to treat IPF, we are seeing patients referred to us from Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and even from more distant regions in the United States,” said Joao de Andrade, M.D., director of the UAB ILD Program. “The selection of our program to become a member of the PFF Care Center Network is another recognition of UAB as a national center of excellence in ILD.”  

The UAB ILD Program is organized around a multidisciplinary and patient-centered model. Four physicians, one nurse manager and three research coordinators are fully dedicated to ILD patients. The program has lasting and productive collaborations with colleagues in the departments of Radiology and Pathology and the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UAB. In addition to providing excellent clinical care, the program offers patients access to novel therapies and participates in the education of the next generation of pulmonologists.

“As the leading advocate for the pulmonary fibrosis community, we are dedicated to advancing the care of people living with this deadly disease, and this starts with providing greater access to experienced care teams,” said Gregory P. Cosgrove, M.D., chief medical officer of the PFF. “Working together, institutions within the network will identify and share best practices, which foster better care and ultimately enable more institutions that embrace these practices to be certified as PFF Care Center sites.”

As part of the selection process, a panel of peer reviewers, comprising current members of the PFF board of directors, medical advisory board, PFF Care Center Network and PFF Patient Registry Steering Committee, reviewed and scored applications. 

“When selecting sites to add to the PFF Care Center Network, we consider a center’s specific programs and its geographic location in order to best serve the needs of the broader pulmonary fibrosis community,” said Kevin Flaherty, M.D., M.S., chair of the steering committee of the PFF Care Center Network. “The new centers selected provide the highest-quality patient care and an individualized approach to treatment in accordance with best evidence-based recommendations. We welcome these new centers and look forward to continuing to expand the network in the coming year.” 

The PFF Care Center Network uses a multidisciplinary approach to deliver comprehensive patient care, forming specialized care teams comprising experts in interstitial lung disease in pulmonary medicine, rheumatology, radiology and pathology. This multidisciplinary approach is critical to managing a complex disease like PF and ensuring people with PF receive an accurate diagnosis, obtain quality clinical care and acquire important support services. 

The institutions newly certified as PFF Care Center Network sites:

  • Inova Fairfax Medical Campus
  • Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center
  • Piedmont Healthcare
  • The University of Arizona Interstitial Lung Disease Program at the University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus in Tucson
  • The University of Kansas Hospital
  • Tulane University School of Medicine
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a condition in which, over a period of time, lung tissue becomes thickened, stiff and scarred. The development of the scar tissue is called fibrosis. As the lung tissue becomes scarred and grows thicker, the lungs lose their ability to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream. As a result, the brain and other organs do not receive enough oxygen. In some cases, doctors can determine the cause of the fibrosis; but in many cases, there is no known cause. When the cause of the fibrosis is unknown (and certain pathologic or radiographic criteria are met), the disease is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or IPF. There is no cure for IPF. Presently, there are two FDA-approved treatments for IPF in the United States.