Two physicians at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler are helping lead a clinical trial of a new drug that offers hope to people suffering from Mycobacterium avium complex, or MAC, a rare but serious lung disease.
Griffith, a pulmonary physician at UTHSCT, agreed.
“While almost 98 percent of the people who contract tuberculosis are successfully treated, only 75 percent of people with MAC are cured. This drug offers the remaining 25 percent the hope of better treatment outcomes,” he said.
Griffith is the lead author of diagnosis and treatment guidelines for NTM approved by the American Thoracic Society and the Infectious Disease Society of America. MAC is the most common NTM to cause infections in people. Dr. Wallace recently was ranked in the top 1 percent of U.S. physicians who treat MAC by U.S. News and World Report magazine.
Principal investigator of the MAC clinical trial is Dr. Kenneth N. Olivier, staff pulmonologist in the Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.
It’s estimated that seven or eight out of 100,000 people in the United States develop an NTM infection each year. The rate of infection is higher for people older than 50 and much higher for women older than 50, Griffith added.
MAC, while not contagious, is a serious disease, with symptoms including cough, production of sputum (secretions from the lungs and tubes that carry air to the lungs), fatigue, weight loss, blood in the sputum, night sweats, and fever. It is thought to be environmentally acquired, meaning that the germs get into the lungs or body via air, water, or soil.
Risk factors include having lung tissue that has been damaged by tuberculosis, heavy smoking or bronchiectasis — a condition that causes destruction of the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.
If preliminary results indicate ARIKACE is safe and effective, it will be evaluated in larger phase 3 trials. These studies will gather additional information to see if the benefits of ARIKACE outweigh the risks and to give physicians the data they need to correctly prescribe it.
UTHSCT is one of about a dozen sites taking part in this clinical trial. These include the Mayo Clinic, National Jewish Health in Denver and the National Institutes of Health.
Most of the individuals being enrolled here are UTHSCT patients, Griffith said. To participate in the study, individuals must be referred by their physicians and meet certain criteria.
Wallace is encouraged by the emergence of a new drug for MAC.
“There haven’t been many developments in the treatment of MAC in 20 years. This is the first glimmer of hope since the early 1990s,” he said.