News in brief: NAVIGATOR reveals responses to treatment with tezepelumab; Study sheds light on link between COPD and severe COVID; Record number of doctors elected to parliament 


Clinical responses to treatment with tezepelumab

Patients with severe, uncontrolled asthma on tezepelumab have 2-3 times the likelihood of achieving clinical response than controls, according to data presented at ATS 2022.

The new findings were from a pre-specified analysis of data from the previously published phase 3 NAVIGATOR trial.

Associate Professor Njira Lugogo, director of the Asthma Program at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, told the conference that nearly half (48.2%) of participants achieved complete response to tezepelumab across measures of exacerbation reduction, asthma control, lung function, and clinician assessment compared to 25.3% of controls (OR 2.78).

The proportion of responders was higher in the tezepelumab than in the placebo group for exacerbation reduction (85.4% v 67.5%); Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ)-6 total score (86.9% v 76.6%); an improvement from baseline pre-bronchodilator FEV1 (60.3% v 49.9%; and in Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGI-C) score (81.5% v 67.7%).

The highest OR of 2.82 was seen for the ≥50% reduction in exacerbation at 52 weeks on treatment.

“Overall, these results align with the NAVIGATOR results reported at ATS 2021 and add an important patient-level perspective to the primary study results,” Associate Professor Lugogo said.

“Results can be used in shared decision making when discussing the start of tezepelumab therapy. Patients are always interested in understanding the potential outcomes following therapy initiation and our results can guide clinicians in informing patients about the likelihood of both individual and complete response to therapy,” she said.

Disclosures: This study was supported by AstraZeneca and AMGEN. Associate Professor Lugogo has served on advisory boards for AstraZeneca and AMGEN and as a consultant for AstraZeneca.


Study sheds light on link between COPD and severe COVID 

The airway cells of people with COPD are significantly more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to healthy cells, a study finds.  

Using single cell RNA-sequencing analysis the research from the Centenary Institute and the University of Technology Sydney found a 24-fold increase of viral infection in the primary broncho-epithelial cells (pBECs) of COPD patients compared to the cells of healthy controls.

According to the research team led by Professor Phil Hansbro, COPD pBECs are more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection due to increases in co-receptor expression and protease imbalances, and have greater inflammatory responses. 

“Our findings provide an in-depth understanding of the transcriptomic profile during later-stage infection and provides important insights into the significance of different cell populations at different stages of SARS-CoV-2 infection in COPD,” the  team concluded in their paper published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine

“Collectively, these findings have allowed us to understand the mechanisms of increased COVID-19 susceptibility in COPD patients,” said Professor Phil Hansbro.

“We believe that new drug treatments targeting relevant enzymes and pro-inflammatory responses in SARS-CoV-2 infection could have excellent therapeutic potential in reducing the severity of COVID-19 in patients with COPD,” he added. 

Access the full study here


Record number of doctors elected to parliament

The number of doctors in Federal Parliament has risen to four, with specialists, GPs and emergency doctors all gaining seats for the first time.

Perhaps the biggest headline to come out of Saturday’s election was the victory of paediatric neurologist Professor Monique Ryan over sitting Liberal MP and Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the Melbourne division of Kooyong.

Mr Frydenberg conceded on Monday, with Professor Ryan leading by more than 6,000 votes.

Professor Ryan, who had previously served as director of the neurology department at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, ran as one of the so-called Teal Independents, receiving funding from the Climate 200 group.

“We’ve started because we wanted action on climate change and we felt that it was the most important challenge of our time,” she told supporters on Saturday night.

“It bloody well is. Our government wasn’t listening to us so we have changed the government.”

Fellow Teal Independent Dr Sophie Scamps also enters parliament for the first time in the Sydney seat of Mackellar, where she lives and works as a GP.

And infectious diseases physician Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah has won the blue ribbon Melbourne seat of Higgins for Labor, unseating Liberal MP and fellow specialist, Dr Katie Allen.

Dr Ananda-Rajah rose to prominence last year after publicly criticising the Federal Government’s vaccine rollout, controversially declaring the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine had “failed in terms of its efficacy” on the ABC’s Q+A program.

Her campaign focussed on action to tackle climate change and a stronger response to the pandemic.

The other doctor elected for the first time was Dr Gordon Reid, who became the Labor MP for Robertson, on the NSW Central Coast.

A Wiradjuri man, he said he had been inspired to run while working in the emergency department at the local Wyong Hospital by the bungled vaccine rollout and quarantine program.

Dr Reid said he planned to dedicate his parliamentary work to improving healthcare as well as protecting the Central Coast economy and addressing housing affordability.

Paediatrician Dr Mike Freelander retained the Sydney seat of Macarthur for Labor.

However, cardiologist Dr Michael Feneley, who ran as the Liberal candidate for the NSW electorate of Dobell, was unsuccessful in unseating Labor’s Emma McBride.

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