A recent Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) webinar unveiled learnings from six studies conducted at PHA 2108 International PH Conference and Scientific Sessions.

Doctors shared updates about the studies in the July 29 PHA Live webinar “PHA Research Room Findings.” More than 200 patients and healthy subjects participated in Research Room 2018, sharing data and biological samples with 10 research teams.  Five clinicians who participated in the 2018 Research Room shared results from their research studies during the webinar.

The webinar began with an update by Paresh Giri, M.D.​, of Loma Linda University. He led a study that sought to evaluate the effects of study group participation on quality of life. Significantly, 91% of the 165 people surveyed said that support group participation helped them.

Equally impressive, results showed that study group participation led to higher confidence in self-care, more medication compliance and better understanding of disease process.​ Not surprisingly, the study found that the farther patients and caregivers had to travel to their pulmonary hypertension (PH) physicians, the lower their quality of life.

Next steps: The research team plans to assess which elements of PH support groups are helpful and design a new curriculum that could led to beneficial outcomes.

Increasing exercise rehab referrals

Another study, led by cardiologist Thomas Cascino, M.D., M.Sc​., University of Michigan, examined barriers to exercise rehab referrals.

The team surveyed 65 people, about half of whom had been referred to cardiac or pulmonary rehabilitation. Those without a doctor’s referral for exercise rehab reported greater barriers related to cost, distance and other factors. The barriers greatly increased as the perceived need to exercise decreased.

The study can help doctors understand perceived barriers, leading to increased referrals and ideally better outcomes for the PH community. If patients and providers know about the benefits of rehab, use of exercise programs may increase, Cascino said.

PH risk stratification

A study led by Ray Benza, M.D., FACC, FAHA, FACP, The Ohio State University, asked patients to assess the importance and relevance of risk-assessment tools to guide care and treatment.

The study showed potential for a PH-specific risk-assessment tool that can help inform and educate patients, as well as involve them in critical decisions about their care. The data helped the researchers secure NIH funding to design a highly accurate risk stratification model, which features multiple variables to assess patients and shows how combinations of factors can affect patient outcomes.

Proteins under the microscope

A research team led by Paul Yu, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, sought to identify new pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) biomarkers that correspond with disease severity and/or PAH causes. The 2018 study built on the previous PHA Research Room studies about PH biomarkers by Dr. Yu and his colleagues. Ideally, the biomarkers would lead to quicker, more precise diagnosis and more effective treatment.

For this study, more than 200 PHA Conference participants donated blood to help researchers examine as many proteins as possible.

At this stage, the researchers are trying to identify proteins and genes that could indicate disease severity or causes or could predict treatment response. The biomarkers could be important for identifying specific patient populations who might respond to specific treatments. The work also could support future trials.

NIH studies

Michael Solomon, M.D., MBA, of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, discussed two studies.

One clinical trial, SPIRIT-PAH, looked at the effect of spironolactone on six-minute walk distance and on the clinical progression of PAH. Spironolactone is a diuretic traditionally used to treat high blood pressure, heart failure and liver disease. This study examined its anti-inflammatory characteristics.

The study detected abnormal inflammatory responses in the blood of people with PAH. Lab evidence suggests the medication could reduce the inflammatory response.

Solomon also discussed a clinical trial call Natural-PAH, which is evaluating novel new biomarkers and imaging techniques that could give insight into the pathophysiology of PAH.

If you missed the webinar, you view the recording here.