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Clinical update on the use of biomarkers of airway inflammation in the management of asthma

Authors Wadsworth SJ, Sin DD, Dorscheid DR

Published 30 June 2011 Volume 2011:4 Pages 77—86


Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

SJ Wadsworth1,2, DD Sin1,2, DR Dorscheid1,2
1UBC James Hogg Research Centre, Providence Heart and Lung Institute, St Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, Canada; 2Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada

Abstract: Biological markers are already used in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Biomarkers have great potential use in the clinic as a noninvasive means to make more accurate diagnoses, monitor disease progression, and create personalized treatment regimes. Asthma is a heterogeneous disease with several different phenotypes, generally triggered by multiple gene-environment interactions. Pulmonary function tests are most often used objectively to confirm the diagnosis. However, airflow obstruction can be variable and thus missed using spirometry. Furthermore, lung function measurements may not reflect the precise underlying pathological processes responsible for different phenotypes. Inhaled corticosteroids and ß2-agonists have been the mainstay of asthma therapy for over 30 years, but the heterogeneity of the disease means not all asthmatics respond to the same treatment. High costs and undesired side effects of drugs also drive the need for better targeted treatment of asthma. Biomarkers have the potential to indicate an individual's disease phenotype and thereby guide clinicians in their decisions regarding treatment. This review focuses on biomarkers of airway inflammation which may help us to identify, monitor, and guide treatment of asthmatics. We discuss biomarkers obtained from multiple physiological sources, including sputum, exhaled gases, exhaled breath condensate, serum, and urine. We discuss the inherent limitations and benefits of using biomarkers in a heterogeneous disease such as asthma. We also discuss how we may modify our study designs to improve the identification and potential use of potential biomarkers in asthma.

Keywords: asthma, inflammation, airway biomarkers, urinary biomarkers, serum biomarkers

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