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Chelsea and Westminster Hospital joins worldwide research trial for new procedure that could revolutionise asthma care

26 June 2006

Doctors at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital have joined the AIR2 (Asthma Interventional Research) clinical trial to explore a revolutionary new investigational asthma treatment that could significantly change the treatment of this common respiratory condition.

Doctors at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital have joined the AIR2 (Asthma Interventional Research) clinical trial to explore a revolutionary new investigational asthma treatment that could significantly change the treatment of this common respiratory condition.

The study focuses on a procedure called Bronchial Thermoplasty which is currently being researched at up to 30 centres in the UK, US, Canada, Brazil and Australia.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital is the only centre in London and the south east to take part in the clinical trial of the first attempt at a non-drug treatment for asthma – currently medication is the only treatment available to asthma sufferers.

The procedure is still under clinical investigation but early patient data from other trial centres suggests it may hold promise for moderate and severe asthmatic patients.

Bronchial Thermoplasty is an investigative procedure to reduce the amount of ‘airway smooth muscle’, tiny muscles in the airway wall that are responsible for narrowing of the airways of asthma patients when these muscles contract.

For asthma sufferers, the airway smooth muscle that circles the airways may become thicker than normal. During an asthmatic attack, the airway smooth muscle may contract which leads to narrowing of the airways and breathing difficulties.

Bronchial Thermoplasty is performed under local anaesthetic and takes just an hour to complete which means that patients do not need to stay in hospital overnight.

Doctors use the Alair System, developed by US manufacturers Asthmatx, to go into the airways with a flexible bronchoscope through the patient’s nose or mouth and then deliver thermal energy to the airway walls to reduce the amount of airway smooth muscle.

Dr Pallav Shah, Respiratory Consultant at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and Principal Investigator for the AIR2 trial at the hospital, said: “Asthma is an increasingly common condition which now affects more than 5 million people in the UK, according to World Health Organisation statistics.

“Asthma is sometimes seen as a relatively minor medical condition but in fact 2.6 million people in the UK have severe asthma and in the most extreme cases it can be a killer.

“And asthma also has a significant impact on the UK economy—the World Health Organisation estimates that around 20 million working days are lost due to the condition each year in the UK.

“Bronchial Thermoplasty has real promise but the only way we can test its potential is by conducting clinical trials, which is why we are now looking for suitable patients to enrol in the AIR2 trial here at Chelsea and Westminster.”

Dr Shah and his colleagues hope to enrol up to 20 patients over the next year at Chelsea and Westminster as part of the 300-patient trial being conducted at various sites around the world.

If you have asthma, are aged between 18 and 65, take medication daily to control your asthma, and are a non-smoker, you may be eligible to participate in this study.

Anyone interested in participating in the clinical trial should contact Cielito Caneja, Respiratory Research Nurse at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, on 020 3315 8141, bleep 4179 through the hospital switchboard on 020 8746 8000 or via email at cielito.caneja@chelwest.nhs.uk.