On World Asthma Day, Dr Andy Whittamore explains the three ground-breaking ways that are making a cure for asthma possible.
World Asthma Day: What’s the future for research to prevent and cure asthma?
Today, asthma attacks will kill three people in the UK alone. And around the world, 334 million people continue living with symptoms which can affect every part of their lives. By 2025 that number is likely to be 400 million. That just isn’t good enough.
On World Asthma Day, we reflect more than usual on the fact that despite recent research breakthroughs, we still don’t fully understand what causes asthma or how to treat it effectively. The medicines we currently have, although lifesaving for many, don’t work for everyone, and can be difficult to take properly.
All over the world, ground-breaking research is starting to solve these problems. But until recently scientists didn’t agree on how to make the biggest difference to people with asthma. So, over the last three years, Asthma UK has worked with hundreds of international experts to understand the essential ‘to-do’ list for researchers if we want to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma.
Professor Sebastian Johnston, Director of the MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma says: “Ten years ago we could never have imagined talking about potential cures being so close. Having mapped all the mechanics of asthma we now have a much clearer picture of the research that needs to be done, so that we could be looking at cures for many types of asthma within a generation.”
Three vital steps to treatments – and a cure:
- The first stage – which has now been completed – is an ambitious roadmap for asthma research. By talking to people with asthma and international researchers, we’ve agreed 15 priorities which researchers need to focus on to develop new asthma treatments, make it quicker and easier to diagnose asthma, and use technology (like smart inhalers) to help people stay on top of their condition.
- The second thing is filling in the key gaps in knowledge about what causes asthma and asthma attacks, in order to get to better treatments and cures more quickly. In some areas, such as the relationship between asthma and allergies, we know a lot, but in others – like the link between children’s lung infections and developing asthma – there’s still masses to learn. The better we understand these areas; the more effective new treatments can be developed.
- The third key ingredient is to make sure collaboration continues. We want to make sure that world-leading researchers, funders, policy-makers and drug companies work together. And because you tell us there’s nothing more scary than not being able to breathe, we want them to listen to people with asthma at every key step of the research project, so that research helps the people who need it most.