As many of you know, I am passionate (aka relentless) when it comes to fundraising for Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Through awards and events, we’ve been able to raise almost $250,000 since Sophia was born 4.5 years ago. I often give or arrange talks about where those fundraising dollars go, but I just realized that only a few people really ever get to hear those talks. Maybe I should share some of the exciting breakthroughs here. Maybe my excitement about where research is leading will be contagious? (This is the one time I will use that word with a positive tone).
I’ll give a quick disclaimer here: I am not a researcher. I am not an expert. What I write is based on what I understand to be true. I may be (a little bit) wrong, so please comment and let me know if I’ve misrepresented any ideas.
I’ve mentioned before that cystic fibrosis is genetic. It’s far more complex than that little word implies. There are over 2000 known mutations that lead to cystic fibrosis. They can largely be categorized into one of five different protein (CFTR) malformations. Recently a drug called Kalydeco was approved for use in the USA, Canada, and many other countries. If you are part of the 4% with the protein malformation it targets, it is an incredibly powerful control (not a cure) for cystic fibrosis. In very layperson language, it basically “opens the gate” to allow the protein to pass through and do its magic. Unfortunately Sophia is not in this group. She has 2 copies of deltaF508, which is the most common mutation, and leads to a slightly more complex protein malformation than the one Kalydeco targets. Sophia’s proteins need to be fixed up a little and then let through the gate. There are large-scale studies being done right now looking at the usefulness of Kalydeco combined with another drug. We’re waiting for the final results to be published soon.
Another complicating factor is the presence of modifier genes. These are ‘other’ genes that cause one person with deltaF508 to be quite sick, while another to be relatively well. Again, research is looking at identifying what these modifier genes are, and how we can tailor treatments to each individual with cystic fibrosis.
My bias in outlining only a couple of areas of research is obvious. These are the ones that seem most pertinent to Sophia right now, so I am most interested in them. There are hundreds of other studies funded by Cystic Fibrosis Canada every year. If you are interested, there’s a booklet published yearly on the Cystic Fibrosis Canada website (www.cysticfibrosis.ca).
Some flashy and fun stats to look at (courtesy of Shinerama):