The University of Louisville Department of Medicine Lung Health Initiative is not limited to the pulmonary realm as it routinely partners with other departments and programs at the university and in the community to improve the quality of care and research in lung health.

Lung Cancer

Jeff Ritzenthaler in labLung cancer is one of the most common malignant tumors in the world, and is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States.

Each year, over 200,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer and a similar number die of the disease in the United States. Despite recent advances in understanding the molecular biology of lung cancer and the introduction of multiple new chemotherapeutic agents for its treatment, its dismal less-than-15% five-year survival rate has not changed substantially.

Considering the above, the Lung Health Initiative partnered with members of the Interventional Pulmonology Program and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center to improve diagnosis of lung cancer through early screening, while providing the best care possible to those suffering from the disease.

In addition, the program has engaged in an ambitious research program designed to learn about the mechanisms that lead to lung cancer and the identification of potential targets for intervention.

Liver-Lung Disorders

It is well-known that alcohol abuse is often associated with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. However, few know that alcohol abuse can also lead to increased susceptibility of the lung to injury and disrepair.

In fact, chronic alcohol abuse has become a well-known factor contributed to the development of acute lung injury, a symdrome with high mortality in subjects with systemic infection and related conditions.

The factors that promote chronic liver disease and lung disorders in alcoholics are unknown, but represent an important contributor to poor health in the U.S. and other countries.

Investigators at the University of Louisville believe that the liver and lung share common mechanisms of disease and that injury to one organ contributes to injury to another.  To address this experimentally, researchers in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology and the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition partner with investigators from the U of L Department of Medicine Lung Health Initiative.

Several U of L investigators have obtained funding from the National Institutes of Health to evaluate how alcohol, through effects of specific receptors present in both liver and lung cells, promote aberrant disrepair leading to fibrosis in both organs.

This work has begun to unveil information about alcohol sensors in human tissues and the signals they trigger to affect the behavior of liver and lung cells.

Pulmonary Complications of HIV

HIV infection continues to affect millions throughout the globe. However, advances in this field have resulted in the generation of drugs capable of controlling the virus and extending life. As patients with HIV live longer, they have been found to have a higher incidence of pulmonary disorders including infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pulmonary hypertension, among others.

The mechanisms responsible for these disorders in patients affected by HIV infection are unknown. Considering this, members of the Lung Health Initiative and the newly established Global Health Initiative joined forces to tackle this problem.

Led by Drs. Julio Ramirez and Ruth Carrico, The Global Health Initiative was established by the U of L Department of Medicine to address global health needs. Today, the program houses the Vaccine and Travel Clinic, The Refugee Health Program, and the Epidemiological and Biostatistics Research Unit.

In addition, a team of experts cares for the largest group of HIV patients in the region.

Funded by a U01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Drs. Ramirez and Jesse Roman, and others partnered to evaluate the potential mechanisms leading to chronic lung disease in HIV-infected patients. Specifically, they postulate that patients with HIV infection suffer from chronic oxidative stress which, in turn, leads to the aberrant deposition of connective tissue in lung and the elicitation of exaggerated inflammatory responses in response to injury.

In doing so, the HIV lung is susceptible to lung injury and disrepair. The team is performing studies in consenting subjects with HIV in an attempt to identify targets of intervention that would lead to the development of novel treatment strategies.

This type of research is only one of many projects currently taking place in the HIV Clinic. Our patients partner with us to engage in such innovative programs and demand the highest quality care; they are the drive behind our efforts.