The University of Newcastle, Australia

Asthma treatment – it’s not one-size-fits-all

Thursday, 8 October 2020

With at least one asthma-related death each day in Australia, a team of researchers has been awarded $2.5 million dollars from NHMRC to investigate personalised approaches to asthma treatment.

Professor Vanessa McDonald
Professor Vanessa McDonald and her team are investigating personalised approaches to asthma treatment.

Asthma affects more than 300 million people worldwide, including about one in nine Australians. It has a significant impact on people’s health, quality of life and the health-care system.

Professor Vanessa McDonald from the University of Newcastle’s Faculty of Health and Medicine and the Centre of Research Excellence in Asthma Treatable Traits (CREATT) said her team was focused on improving approaches to asthma and the lives of people with 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. However, these gains have stalled and in order to see further improvement we need to investigate new therapeutic approaches to this disease,” said Professor McDonald.

Professor McDonald and her team at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) will look at a much broader range of factors that influence an individual’s expression of asthma, and will test tailored treatments for people with asthma.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to asthma management doesn’t cut it. We know that many factors come into play with asthma and we have to take that into account for each individual.”

“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.”

“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.”

A personalised medicine approach known as the ‘Treatable Traits’ model of care aims to deliver the most appropriate treatment to individuals, limiting exposure to ineffective treatments and unwanted side-effects. With greater knowledge of how co-existing conditions impact an individual’s asthma, health professionals will be able to optimise asthma management strategies.

The University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation), Professor Janet Nelson, said this project was an outstanding example of the University coming up with an innovative solution to a pervasive public health issue, such as asthma and respiratory illness.

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

The research program, commencing this November, will include a platform of clinical trials to test different interventions in different populations and settings and, following that, share new knowledge with clinicians and their patients.

About the Centre of Research Excellence in Asthma Treatable Traits (CREATT)

The Centre of Research Excellence in Asthma Treatable Traits (CREATT), funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), aims to generate new knowledge in the area of asthma treatment. It will ensure that their research is translated into clinical practice through working with and training the health and medical workforce including clinicians and researchers. It values collaboration with national and international bodies to amplify knowledge from different perspectives and disciplines.

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.


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