Quicker, Easier Diagnosis Goal of Three Lakes and Mayo Clinic Partnership

Teresa Carvalho, MS avatar

by Teresa Carvalho, MS |

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Three Lakes Foundation and the Mayo Clinic have partnered to help people be more aware of pulmonary fibrosis (PF) symptoms, and to be diagnosed earlier in the disease process should they have them.

The venture’s ultimate goal is a way of making a remote diagnosis possible, so that treatment can begin before considerable lung damage is done.

“Our collaboration with Mayo Clinic is critical. Finding symptomatic individuals and improving time to diagnosis will provide the opportunity to intervene earlier in the diagnostic process, leading to preservation of health and earlier treatment of lung fibrosis,” Dana Ball, executive director of Three Lakes Foundation, said in a press release.

PF is marked by scarring, or fibrosis, of lung tissue. As lung tissue becomes scarred and thicker, it is more difficult for the lungs to expand and contract, and patients experience symptoms that include a persistent cough and shortness of breath.

Because these symptoms are common to various respiratory conditions, including allergies, bronchitis and asthma, an accurate and timely PF diagnosis can be difficult to achieve.

“By the time most patients receive an accurate diagnosis, their lung capacity has already deteriorated significantly,” the foundation stated in its release.

A research team led by Andrew Limper, MD, a professor of pulmonary medicine at the Mayo Clinic, will address the “diagnostic journey” with three specific goals in mind.

One is to better understand PF’s diagnostic stages, so that the time between first symptoms and a final diagnosis can be shortened. The researchers will use the clinic’s patient database to identify barriers that could work against a quick and accurate diagnosis.

Another is to review cases of misdiagnoses to understand their prevalence, and to spot “clinical clues” that could help doctors working with people more readily recognize PF, and distinguish it from other lung disorders. Work here will primarily make use of artificial intelligence and analytics.

Finally, the team intends to use information obtained in these earlier steps to create a prototype of a diagnostic tool that might allow for remote diagnosis — making the diagnostic journey potentially easier and more accessible.

“There are currently two FDA-approved therapies for PF that slow disease progression,” said Cheryl Nutter-Nickerson, VP of research and development for Three Lakes Foundation, referring to Esbriet (pirfenidone) by Genentech, and Ofev (nintedanib) by Boehringer Ingelheim.

And there’s “more than 30 ongoing clinical trials for PF”  underway.

“The path to stopping disease progression and preserving quality of life may be closer than we think,” she added. “Being able to diagnose PF early has never been more important.”

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