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Targeted anti-inflammatory therapeutics in asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease

  • Andrew L. Durham
    Correspondence
    Reprint requests: Andrew L. Durham, Airways Disease Section, National Heart and Lung Institute, Dovehouse Street, London SW3 6LY, UK
    Affiliations
    Airway Diseases Section, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, London, UK

    Biomedical Research Unit, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, London, UK
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  • Gaetano Caramori
    Affiliations
    Section of Respiratory Diseases, Centro per lo Studio delle Malattie Infiammatorie Croniche delle Vie Aeree e Patologie Fumo Correlate dell'Apparato Respiratorio (CEMICEF; ex Centro di Ricerca su Asma e BPCO), Sezione di Medicina Interna e Cardiorespiratoria, Università di Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy
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  • Kian F. Chung
    Affiliations
    Airway Diseases Section, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, London, UK

    Biomedical Research Unit, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, London, UK
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  • Ian M. Adcock
    Affiliations
    Airway Diseases Section, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, London, UK

    Biomedical Research Unit, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, London, UK
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Open AccessPublished:August 19, 2015DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2015.08.004
      Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are chronic inflammatory diseases of the airway, although the drivers and site of the inflammation differ between diseases. Asthmatics with a neutrophilic airway inflammation are associated with a poor response to corticosteroids, whereas asthmatics with eosinophilic inflammation respond better to corticosteroids. Biologicals targeting the Th2-eosinophil nexus such as anti–interleukin (IL)-4, anti–IL-5, and anti–IL-13 are ineffective in asthma as a whole but are more effective if patients are selected using cellular (eg, eosinophils) or molecular (eg, periostin) biomarkers. This highlights the key role of individual inflammatory mediators in driving the inflammatory response and for accurate disease phenotyping to allow greater understanding of disease and development of patient-oriented antiasthma therapies. In contrast to asthmatic patients, corticosteroids are relatively ineffective in COPD patients. Despite stratification of COPD patients, the results of targeted therapy have proved disappointing with the exception of recent studies using CXC chemokine receptor (CXCR)2 antagonists. Currently, several other novel mediator-targeted drugs are undergoing clinical trials. As with asthma specifically targeted treatments may be of most benefit in specific COPD patient endotypes. The use of novel inflammatory mediator-targeted therapeutic agents in selected patients with asthma or COPD and the detection of markers of responsiveness or nonresponsiveness will allow a link between clinical phenotypes and pathophysiological mechanisms to be delineated reaching the goal of endotyping patients.

      Abbreviations:

      AHR (airway hyperresponsiveness), ACQ (Asthma Control Questionnaire), ACOS (asthma-COPD overlap syndrome), BAL (bronchoalveolar lavage), CLCA1 (chloride channel regulator 1), COPD (chronic obstructive lung disease), CS (corticosteroids), CXCR (CXC chemokine receptor), EGF (epidermal growth factor), EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor), FKBP51 (FK506-binding protein 51), FP (fluticasone propionate), FEV1 (Forced expiratory volume in 1 second), FeNO (fraction of exhaled nitric oxide), GR (glucocorticoid receptor), GM-CSF (Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor), HDACs (histone deacetylases), HNE (Human neutrophil elastase), IgE (Immunoglobulin E), ICS (inhaled corticosteroids), LABAs (Long-acting beta-adrenoceptor agonists), mRNA (messenger RNA), MAbs (monoclonal antibodies), PDE (phosphodiesterase), PI3K (phosphoinositide-3-kinase), RT-qPCR (Real time quantative polymerase chain reaction), SAL (salmeterol), SERPINB2 (serpin peptidase inhibitor), clade B (member 2), sIL-4R (soluble IL-4 receptor), GOLD (The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease), TSLP (Thymic stromal lymphopoietin), TORCH (Towards a Revolution in COPD Health)

      Introduction

      Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affect more than 500 million people worldwide representing the 2 most common chronic inflammatory diseases of the lower airways.

      Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). Global strategy for asthma management and prevention. NHLBI/WHO workshop report 2002. NHI Publication 02-3659 Last update 2015 Available at: http://www.ginasthma.com. Accessed May 11, 2015.

      Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). Global strategy for the diagnosis, management and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. NHLBI/WHO workshop report 2001. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. NIH Publication 2701: 1–100. Last update 2015. Available at: www.goldcopd.com. Accessed May 11, 2015.

      This review summarizes some of the recent evidence indicating how the use of therapeutics targeting specific inflammatory mediators has indicated their role in disease pathophysiology and also highlighted the importance of subphenotyping these diseases to optimize the response to these targeted drugs.
      The current consensus definition of asthma is “an (sic) heterogeneous disease, usually characterized by chronic airway inflammation. It is defined by the history of respiratory symptoms such as wheeze, shortness of breath, chest tightness and cough that vary over time and in intensity, together with variable airflow obstruction.”

      Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). Global strategy for asthma management and prevention. NHLBI/WHO workshop report 2002. NHI Publication 02-3659 Last update 2015 Available at: http://www.ginasthma.com. Accessed May 11, 2015.

      Patients with asthma have variable airflow obstruction and airway hyper-responsiveness (AHR).
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      which emphasized the Th2-driven nature of asthmatic inflammation. As a result asthma was, for a long time, considered as a single Th2-driven eosinophilic disease whose diagnosis is based on the patient presenting with an intermittent wheeze, dyspnea, and cough. However, it was clear that the presentation and natural history of the disease differ between patients; some asthmatics undergo clinical remission during adolescence, some patients have more severe disease, some asthmatics are nonallergic or atopic, whereas others have exercise-induced asthma.
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      • Chung K.F.
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      How variability in clinical phenotypes should guide research into disease mechanisms in asthma.
      The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease guidelines define COPD as “a common preventable and treatable disease, characterized by persistent airflow limitation that is usually progressive and associated with an enhanced chronic inflammatory response in the airways and the lung to noxious particles or gases. Exacerbations and comorbidities contribute to the overall severity in individual patients.”
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      COPD is expected to rise from the 4th to the 3rd leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide within the next 5 years.
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      According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3 million people in the world die as a consequence of COPD every year.
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      Epidemiology and prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      The estimated annual costs of COPD are $24 billion and 70% are related to exacerbations requiring hospitalization.

      Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). Global strategy for the diagnosis, management and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. NHLBI/WHO workshop report 2001. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. NIH Publication 2701: 1–100. Last update 2015. Available at: www.goldcopd.com. Accessed May 11, 2015.

      In developed countries, the leading risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking with smokers constituting more than 90% of COPD patients.
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      In less-well developed countries, biomass fuel used in cooking and other environmental pollutants are major factors.
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      The pathologic features of COPD are lung parenchymal destruction (pulmonary emphysema), inflammation of the small (peripheral) airways (respiratory bronchiolitis), and inflammation of the central airways. Inflammation occurs within all these compartments (central and peripheral airways and lung parenchyma).
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      COPD pathology in the small airways.
      The major sites of airflow obstruction are the small airways and lung parenchyma in COPD.
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      The nature of small-airway obstruction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

      Corticosteroid Responsiveness in Asthma

      Asthma was implicated as a chronic inflammatory disease, and this was confirmed when the potent anti-inflammatory prednisolone was shown to be of benefit in patients with asthma. Some of the original studies with oral prednisolone highlighted that blood levels of eosinophils were not altered in patients who were more refractory to treatment. This provided early evidence for the concept of relatively corticosteroid-resistant asthma.
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      Corticosteroids in asthma.
      However, the introduction of inhaled corticosteroids (ICSs) resulted in such a dramatic improvement in the asthma symptoms of most asthmatics
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      Safety of inhaled corticosteroids.
      Brompton Hospital/Medical Research Council Collaborative Trial
      Double-blind trial comparing two dosage schedules of beclomethasone dipropionate aerosol in the treatment of chronic bronchial asthma.
      that these earlier studies indicating that only 40% of asthmatics responded well, at least in terms of an improvement in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), was ignored. In common with most chronic inflammatory diseases, corticosteroids are able to attenuate all measures of inflammation in asthmatic airways leading to a reversal in the decline in FEV1 associated with the disease and a reduction in AHR back to normal levels. However, ICSs do not cure asthmatics as many of the symptoms of asthma and the inflammation return on their discontinuation.
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      • Chung K.F.
      New targets for drug development in asthma.
      • Caramori G.
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      Pharmacology of airway inflammation in asthma and COPD.
      Asthmatic patients who respond poorly to ICSs or even oral corticosteroids, termed severe asthmatics, often have more frequent exacerbations requiring hospitalization and depression associated with the chronic nature of the disease, which is not controlled by conventional therapy.
      • Chung K.F.
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      • Brozek J.L.
      • et al.
      International ERS/ATS guidelines on definition, evaluation and treatment of severe asthma.
      There is an urgent need for new effective anti-inflammatory drugs that could treat or even ultimately cure these patients as they will have a profound effect on an individual patient's welfare and also on the huge associated societal costs.
      • Adcock I.M.
      • Caramori G.
      • Chung K.F.
      New targets for drug development in asthma.
      Relative corticosteroid insensitivity is seen in a subset of patients across all chronic inflammatory diseases with a commensurate increase in healthcare and societal costs.
      • Barnes P.J.
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      Glucocorticoid resistance in inflammatory diseases.
      Asthma is now recognized as a syndrome with many potential phenotypes and endotypes and understanding these is essential in determining the most effective therapeutic regimen suitable for each patient.
      • Chung K.F.
      • Adcock I.M.
      How variability in clinical phenotypes should guide research into disease mechanisms in asthma.
      Several large consortia in Europe and the USA, as well as individual research centers, have been instrumental in defining subgroups of asthma and severe asthma based on clinical features.
      • Chung K.F.
      • Adcock I.M.
      How variability in clinical phenotypes should guide research into disease mechanisms in asthma.
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      Diagnosis and definition of severe refractory asthma: an international consensus statement from the Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI).
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      U.S. and European severe asthma cohorts: what can they teach us about severe asthma?.
      For example, 5 clusters of asthma were identified by SARP
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      Identification of asthma phenotypes using cluster analysis in the Severe Asthma Research Program.
      and 4 clusters from Leicester.
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      Cluster analysis and clinical asthma phenotypes.
      In both studies, severe asthmatics were distributed among several clusters. The therapeutic efficacy of some drugs was enhanced by taking cytopathologic and histopathologic inflammatory characteristics and or genomic signatures into account. For instance, neutrophilic airway inflammation was associated with poor corticosteroid responses
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      Bronchoscopic evaluation of severe asthma. Persistent inflammation associated with high dose glucocorticoids.
      and corticosteroid treatment guided by eosinophilic inflammation led to better disease outcome than standard clinical management.
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      Interestingly, patient selection guided by sputum eosinophils also appears to be a better predictor of a patient's responses to anti–IL-5 antibody treatment.
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      Mepolizumab for prednisone-dependent asthma with sputum eosinophilia.
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      Mepolizumab treatment in patients with severe eosinophilic asthma.

      Inhibiting Inflammatory Mediators in Asthma

      More than 100 mediators have now been implicated in asthmatic inflammation, including multiple cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors.
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      New targets for drug development in asthma.
      Blocking a single mediator is therefore unlikely to be very effective in this complex disease, and mediator antagonists have so far not proved to be very effective compared with drugs that have a broad spectrum of anti-inflammatory effects, such as corticosteroids. However, blocking Th2 cytokines such as IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13 despite not been completely explored has shown some promising results in selected patients with asthma.

      IL-5-Targeted Therapy in Asthma

      The Th2 cell cytokine, IL-5, plays an important role in eosinophil maturation, differentiation, recruitment, and survival. IL-5 knockout mice appeared to confirm a role in asthma models in which eosinophilia and AHR are markedly suppressed. The humanized anti–IL-5 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), mepolizumab (formerly termed SCH55700) and reslizumab (formerly Res-5-0010), have been developed for clinical use.
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      New drugs targeting Th2 lymphocytes in asthma.
      Another fully humanized MAb benralizumab (previously named MEDI-563) instead targets eosinophils by binding IL-5 receptor α (IL-5Rα) inhibiting IL-5 binding and inducing eosinophil apoptosis through antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity.
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      Effects of benralizumab on airway eosinophils in asthmatic patients with sputum eosinophilia.
      It has been demonstrated in earlier studies that using mepolizumab in mild-moderate asthmatics was very effective at reducing sputum and blood eosinophils but had no effect on clinical signs and symptoms suggesting that the concept of asthma as a Th2-driven eosinophilic disease was incorrect.
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      Effects of an interleukin-5 blocking monoclonal antibody on eosinophils, airway hyper-responsiveness, and the late asthmatic response.
      Subsequent studies showed that the same dose of mepolizumab only partially reduced eosinophil numbers within bronchial biopsies of asthmatics, which may have accounted for the persistence of symptoms.
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      Anti-IL-5 treatment reduces deposition of ECM proteins in the bronchial subepithelial basement membrane of mild atopic asthmatics.
      However, this approach was unable to distinguish potential responders from nonresponders.
      On the basis of earlier work showing a cluster of patients with severe asthma had inappropriate levels of sputum eosinophils, Haldar et al examined whether reducing eosinophilia in these patients would have any effect on the clinical features of asthma particularly exacerbations.
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      Mepolizumab and exacerbations of refractory eosinophilic asthma.
      Sixty-one subjects who had refractory eosinophilic asthma and a history of recurrent severe exacerbations received intravenous infusions of 750 mg mepolizumab monthly for 1 year in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study (Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN75169762.). Mepolizumab significantly lowered eosinophil counts in the blood (P < 0.001) and sputum (P = 0.002), and this was associated with a reduction in exacerbations (2.0 vs 3.4 mean exacerbations per subject) compared with placebo. There were no significant differences between the groups with respect to symptoms, FEV1 after bronchodilator use, or AHR.
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      Mepolizumab and exacerbations of refractory eosinophilic asthma.
      An unblinded follow-up analysis of 56 of the original 61 subjects for 12 months indicated that withdrawal of mepolizumab resulted in an increase in blood and sputum eosinophils that preceded the rise in exacerbations. Twelve months after stopping mepolizumab, exacerbation frequency was similar in the placebo and mepolizumab groups. Not unexpectedly, no effects on FEV1 or fraction of exhaled nitric oxide were seen after cessation of mepolizumab therapy. This supports the concept that these events are related and have pathophysiological importance.
      • Haldar P.
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      Outcomes after cessation of mepolizumab therapy in severe eosinophilic asthma: a 12-month follow-up analysis.
      These results were replicated in a follow-up multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01000506) in 621 patients with similar characteristics as the original study. There was a 52% reduction in clinically significant exacerbations with 75 mg mepolizumab, and blood eosinophils appeared to be the best predictor of response.
      • Pavord I.D.
      • Korn S.
      • Howarth P.
      • et al.
      Mepolizumab for severe eosinophilic asthma (DREAM): a multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
      Furthermore, similar results were observed whether mepolizumab was delivered intravenously (75 mg) or subcutaneously (100 mg) for 32 weeks with a 47% and 53% reduction in exacerbations, respectively. This study (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01691521) also reported an increase in FEV1 in all patients receiving mepolizumab of approximately 100 mL and a resultant improvement in asthma quality of life and asthma control questionnaire scores.
      • Ortega H.G.
      • Liu M.C.
      • Pavord I.D.
      • et al.
      Mepolizumab treatment in patients with severe eosinophilic asthma.
      One hundred milligrams of mepolizumab given subcutaneously had a significant glucocorticoid-sparing effect, reduced exacerbations, and improved control of asthma symptoms in patients requiring daily oral glucocorticoid therapy to maintain asthma control (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01691508).
      • Bel E.H.
      • Wenzel S.E.
      • Thompson P.J.
      • et al.
      Oral glucocorticoid-sparing effect of mepolizumab in eosinophilic asthma.
      These latter 2 important new studies suggest that the regular monthly treatment with subcutaneous injections of mepolizumab reduce exacerbation rates by ∼50% in asthmatic patients with persistent peripheral blood eosinophilia and persistent symptoms despite high-dose ICS and additional controller therapy, and frequent exacerbations. Mepolizumab is also able to reduce oral steroid requirement by ∼50% in similar asthmatic patients who additionally required oral prednisone to control their asthma.
      • Ortega H.G.
      • Liu M.C.
      • Pavord I.D.
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      Mepolizumab treatment in patients with severe eosinophilic asthma.
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      • Wenzel S.E.
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      Oral glucocorticoid-sparing effect of mepolizumab in eosinophilic asthma.
      • Robinson D.S.
      • Kariyawasam H.H.
      Mepolizumab for eosinophilic severe asthma: recent studies.
      Two other anti–IL-5R MAbs, benralizumab and reslizumab, had effects similar to mepolizumab with respect to decreasing rates in asthmatic patients with poorly controlled disease and high levels of blood and/or sputum eosinophils despite high doses of ICS therapy. The anti–IL-5Rα MAb benralizumab delivered either intravenously or subcutaneously reduced eosinophil counts in airway mucosa and submucosa, sputum, bone marrow, and peripheral blood.
      • Laviolette M.
      • Gossage D.L.
      • Gauvreau G.
      • et al.
      Effects of benralizumab on airway eosinophils in asthmatic patients with sputum eosinophilia.
      In a large controlled clinical trial, benralizumab only reduced exacerbation rates compared with placebo (57% vs 43%) in the subgroup of patients with persistent asthma and high baseline blood eosinophils.
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      Benralizumab, an anti-interleukin 5 receptor alpha monoclonal antibody, versus placebo for uncontrolled eosinophilic asthma: a phase 2b randomised dose-ranging study.
      There are currently many ongoing controlled clinical trials investigating the efficacy and safety of the addition of benralizumab to the standard of care in the treatment of adult asthmatic patients with different levels of asthma severity (NCT02075255, NCT02322775, NCT01928771, and NCT02258542).
      Reslizumab reduces sputum eosinophils in patients with eosinophilic asthma that is poorly controlled with high-dose ICSs compared with placebo.
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      Reslizumab for poorly controlled, eosinophilic asthma: a randomized, placebo-controlled study.
      In 2 studies, patients whose asthma was inadequately controlled by medium-to-high doses of ICS-based therapy and who had blood eosinophils >400 cells/μL and one or more exacerbations in the previous year, intravenous reslizumab had a significant reduction in the frequency of asthma exacerbations compared with those receiving placebo.
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      IL-13-Targeted Therapy in Asthma

      As part of the Th2 hypothesis of asthma, IL-13 has been shown to play a critical role in various aspects of airway inflammation and epithelial remodeling including goblet cell metaplasia and epithelial-mesenchymal signaling. This leads to increased subepithelial fibrosis or airway smooth muscle hyperplasia.
      • Wills-Karp M.
      Interleukin-13 in asthma pathogenesis.
      Blocking IL-13, but not IL-4, in animal models of asthma prevents the development of AHR after allergen, despite a strong eosinophilic response. In addition, soluble IL-13Rα2 is effective in blocking the actions of IL-13, including immunoglobulin E (IgE) production, pulmonary eosinophilia, and AHR in animal models of asthma.
      • Caramori G.
      • Groneberg D.
      • Ito K.
      • Casolari P.
      • Adcock I.M.
      • Papi A.
      New drugs targeting Th2 lymphocytes in asthma.
      Airway epithelial cells are a major target for corticosteroids and their effectiveness in asthma may relate to their ability to modulate the production of inflammatory mediators from these cells, which have downstream effects on other inflammatory cells. In an attempt to address this issue, Woodruff et al collected epithelial cells obtained by bronchial brushings from asthmatic subjects undergoing a randomized controlled trial of ICSs and from healthy subjects.
      • Woodruff P.G.
      • Boushey H.A.
      • Dolganov G.M.
      • et al.
      Genome-wide profiling identifies epithelial cell genes associated with asthma and with treatment response to corticosteroids.
      Transcriptomic analysis of these cells identified 2 distinct groups termed Th2-high and Th2-low based on the differential expression of IL-13–inducible genes (periostin, chloride channel regulator 1, and serpin peptidase inhibitor, clade B, member 2)—a Th2-high signature. Corticosteroid treatment downregulated the expression of these 3 genes and markedly upregulated the expression of FK506-binding protein 51. High basal expression of this Th2-high signature was associated with a good clinical response to corticosteroids, whereas high FK506-binding protein 51 expression was linked to a poor clinical response. These results were confirmed in primary epithelial cell cultures. Overall, the Th2-high group was associated with sputum eosinophilia and AHR and consistent with the predictive value of sputum eosinophilia, the Th2-high phenotype responded clinically to corticosteroids (CS) resulting in reduced expression of these Th2 biomarkers.
      • Woodruff P.G.
      • Boushey H.A.
      • Dolganov G.M.
      • et al.
      Genome-wide profiling identifies epithelial cell genes associated with asthma and with treatment response to corticosteroids.
      • Woodruff P.G.
      • Modrek B.
      • Choy D.F.
      • et al.
      T-helper type 2-driven inflammation defines major subphenotypes of asthma.
      Measurement of the Th2 signature in bronchial epithelium depends on invasive airway sampling and hence noninvasive biomarkers of this phenotype are desirable. Sputum is a more accessible compartment to determine airway Th2-high vs Th2-low status. Real time quantative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) analysis of sputum cell pellets from 37 asthmatic patients and 15 healthy control subjects demonstrated that the gene expression levels of chloride channel regulator 1 and periostin, but not serpin peptidase inhibitor, clade B, member 2, were significantly higher than normal in sputum cells from asthmatic subjects.
      • Peters M.C.
      • Mekonnen Z.K.
      • Yuan S.
      • Bhakta N.R.
      • Woodruff P.G.
      • Fahy J.V.
      Measures of gene expression in sputum cells can identify TH2-high and TH2-low subtypes of asthma.
      However, the composite expression of IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13 messenger RNA was able to demonstrate Th2-high status in these patients. These were characterized by more severe measures of asthma and increased blood and sputum eosinophilia. This Th2-gene mean value was stable at the upper and lower limits but at intermediate levels raising issues about the utility of this signal for these patients.
      • Peters M.C.
      • Mekonnen Z.K.
      • Yuan S.
      • Bhakta N.R.
      • Woodruff P.G.
      • Fahy J.V.
      Measures of gene expression in sputum cells can identify TH2-high and TH2-low subtypes of asthma.
      The Th2-high signature is a variable being correlated with local allergic signals and eosinophilia
      • Choy D.F.
      • Modrek B.
      • Abbas A.R.
      • et al.
      Gene expression patterns of Th2 inflammation and intercellular communication in asthmatic airways.
      and has also been linked to markers of airway remodeling.
      • Woodruff P.G.
      • Modrek B.
      • Choy D.F.
      • et al.
      T-helper type 2-driven inflammation defines major subphenotypes of asthma.
      A comparison of IgE levels, blood eosinophil numbers, fraction of exhaled nitric oxide levels, and serum periostin levels in 59 patients with severe asthma indicated that serum periostin level was the single best predictor of airway eosinophilia (P = 0.007).
      • Jia G.
      • Erickson R.W.
      • Choy D.F.
      • et al.
      Periostin is a systemic biomarker of eosinophilic airway inflammation in asthmatic patients.
      It made sense, therefore, to use periostin levels as a biomarker for anti–IL-13 therapy particularly because some patients with uncontrolled asthma continue to have increased levels of IL-13 in the sputum, despite the use of systemic corticosteroids and ICSs.
      • Saha S.K.
      • Berry M.A.
      • Parker D.
      • et al.
      Increased sputum and bronchial biopsy IL-13 expression in severe asthma.
      Lebrikizumab, an MAb to IL-13, improved lung function in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 219 adults who had asthma that was inadequately controlled despite inhaled glucocorticoid therapy (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00930163).
      • Corren J.
      • Lemanske R.F.
      • Hanania N.A.
      • et al.
      Lebrikizumab treatment in adults with asthma.
      Overall, the patients on lebrikizumab had a 5.5% increase in FEV1 than those in the placebo group. When patients were divided according to high or low serum periostin levels, those with high periostin had greater improvement in lung function with lebrikizumab (8.2%) than those with low periostin levels (1.6%). Patient selection, however, is the key to success with these drugs because lebrikizumab failed to increase FEV1 in 212 adult asthmatics not receiving ICSs irrespective of periostin levels.
      • Noonan M.
      • Korenblat P.
      • Mosesova S.
      • et al.
      Dose-ranging study of lebrikizumab in asthmatic patients not receiving inhaled steroids.
      Similarly, subcutaneous tralokinumab (formerly CAT-354), an IL-13–neutralizing IgG4 MAb, improves lung function but not global asthma control scores in adults with moderate-to-severe uncontrolled asthma despite controller therapies.
      • Piper E.
      • Brightling C.
      • Niven R.
      • et al.
      A phase II placebo-controlled study of tralokinumab in moderate-to-severe asthma.
      There is an ongoing large controlled clinical trial investigating the efficacy of tralokinumab in adults and adolescents with oral corticosteroid-dependent asthma (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02281357).

      IL-4-Pathway-Targeted Therapy in Persistent Asthma

      IL-4 analogs that act as antagonists have been developed, which fail to induce signal transduction and block IL-4 effects in vitro. These IL-4 antagonists prevent the development of asthma in vivo in animal models.
      • Caramori G.
      • Groneberg D.
      • Ito K.
      • Casolari P.
      • Adcock I.M.
      • Papi A.
      New drugs targeting Th2 lymphocytes in asthma.
      However, the development of pascolizumab (SB 240683), a humanized anti–IL-4 antibody,
      • Hart T.K.
      • Blackburn M.N.
      • Brigham-Burke M.
      • et al.
      Preclinical efficacy and safety of pascolizumab (SB 240683): a humanized anti-interleukin-4 antibody with therapeutic potential in asthma.
      and a blocking variant of human IL-4 (BAY36-1677) has apparently been discontinued.
      • Caramori G.
      • Groneberg D.
      • Ito K.
      • Casolari P.
      • Adcock I.M.
      • Papi A.
      New drugs targeting Th2 lymphocytes in asthma.
      A soluble IL-4 receptor (sIL-4R) that acts as an IL-4R antagonist and for this reason is a dual IL-4/IL-13 pathway antagonist, termed pitrakinra, has also been developed. A single nebulized dose of sIL-4R prevents the fall in lung function induced by glucocorticoid withdrawal in moderate to severe asthmatics
      • Borish L.C.
      • Nelson H.S.
      • Lanz M.J.
      • et al.
      Interleukin-4 receptor in moderate atopic asthma. A phase I/II randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
      and allergen-induced FEV1 decrease in atopic asthmatics.
      • Wenzel S.
      • Wilbraham D.
      • Fuller R.
      • Getz E.B.
      • Longphre M.
      Effect of an interleukin-4 variant on late phase asthmatic response to allergen challenge in asthmatic patients: results of two phase 2a studies.
      Weekly nebulization of sIL-4R for more than 3 months improves asthma control.
      • Borish L.C.
      • Nelson H.S.
      • Lanz M.J.
      • et al.
      Interleukin-4 receptor in moderate atopic asthma. A phase I/II randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
      Interestingly amino acid changes in the 3′-end of the IL-4Rα gene or closely proximal variants predict pitrakinra efficacy.
      • Slager R.E.
      • Otulana B.A.
      • Hawkins G.A.
      • et al.
      IL-4 receptor polymorphisms predict reduction in asthma exacerbations during response to an anti-IL-4 receptor alpha antagonist.
      However, further studies in patients with milder asthma proved disappointing and the clinical development of this compound has now been discontinued.
      • Caramori G.
      • Groneberg D.
      • Ito K.
      • Casolari P.
      • Adcock I.M.
      • Papi A.
      New drugs targeting Th2 lymphocytes in asthma.
      Dupilumab (SAR231893/REGN668) is a fully humanized anti–IL-4Rα MAb, which reduced asthma exacerbations when long-acting beta-adrenoceptor agonists (LABAs) and ICSs were withdrawn from patients with persistent asthma, moderate-to-severe asthma, and who had a blood eosinophil count >300 cells/μL or a sputum eosinophil level >3%. This was associated with improved lung function and reduced levels of Th2-associated inflammatory markers.
      • Wenzel S.
      • Ford L.
      • Pearlman D.
      • et al.
      Dupilumab in persistent asthma with elevated eosinophil levels.
      In contrast, AMG 317, another fully humanized anti–IL-4Rα MAb, did not demonstrate any clinical efficacy in patients with moderate-to-severe asthma.
      • Corren J.
      • Busse W.
      • Meltzer E.O.
      • et al.
      A randomized, controlled, phase 2 study of AMG 317, an IL-4Ralpha antagonist, in patients with asthma.

      Other Anti-inflammatory Pathways under Clinical Investigation in Persistent Asthma

      In a short 4-week double-blind randomized study, MK-7123/SCH527123, a CXC chemokine receptor (CXCR)2 antagonist, reduced sputum neutrophilia by 36% in patients with severe asthma, although it had no effect on lung function or on an asthma quality of life questionnaire.
      • Nair P.
      • Gaga M.
      • Zervas E.
      • et al.
      Safety and efficacy of a CXCR2 antagonist in patients with severe asthma and sputum neutrophils: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
      Longer studies are warranted in these patients.
      Despite good results in preclinical studies, brodalumab, an anti–IL-17Rα MAb, had no effect on asthma control questionnaire score, FEV1, symptom scores, or number of symptom-free days in 302 subjects with inadequately controlled moderate-severe asthma taking regular ICSs. Subgroup analysis of the high-reversibility group was of uncertain significance and will require a further clinical study (www.clinicaltrials.gov, NCT01199289).
      • Busse W.W.
      • Holgate S.
      • Kerwin E.
      • et al.
      Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of brodalumab, a human anti-IL-17 receptor monoclonal antibody, in moderate to severe asthma.
      Secukinumab (AIN457), an anti–IL-17 MAb that selectively neutralizes IL-17A, is starting phase II trials in asthmatic subjects who are not adequately controlled with ICSs and long-acting β2-agonists (NCT01478360).
      Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is a bronchial epithelial cell–derived cytokine that may be important in initiating allergic inflammation. MEDI9929 (formerly AMG 157) is a human anti-TSLP MAb that binds human TSLP and prevents receptor interaction.
      • Gauvreau G.M.
      • O'Byrne P.M.
      • Boulet L.P.
      • et al.
      Effects of an anti-TSLP antibody on allergen-induced asthmatic responses.
      Treatment with AMG 157 reduced allergen-induced bronchoconstriction and blood and sputum before and after allergen challenge.
      • Gauvreau G.M.
      • O'Byrne P.M.
      • Boulet L.P.
      • et al.
      Effects of an anti-TSLP antibody on allergen-induced asthmatic responses.
      There is an ongoing clinical trial investigating the efficacy of MEDI9929 in not well-controlled severe persistent asthma (https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02054130).

      Summary on the Current Approach of Targeting Novel Anti-inflammatory Pathways in Asthma

      These classifications and biomarkers are useful as a start (Fig 1) but are not optimal and do not provide detailed information regarding biomarkers or pathways involved in corticosteroid insensitivity or in Th2-low asthma. In addition, there are still many unresolved issues on the inclusion criteria of the asthmatic patients in these trials. For example, considering the very low compliance to regular antiasthmatic drugs (both by inhaled and oral routes), even in patients with severe persistent asthma.
      • Gamble J.
      • Stevenson M.
      • McClean E.
      • Heaney L.G.
      The prevalence of nonadherence in difficult asthma.
      We eagerly need objective measures of this compliance to avoid to erroneously attribute difficult-to-control asthma to a reduced responsiveness to corticosteroids.
      • Murphy A.C.
      • Proeschal A.
      • Brightling C.E.
      • et al.
      The relationship between clinical outcomes and medication adherence in difficult-to-control asthma.
      Another key issue is represented by accurate differential diagnosis of patients with severe persistent asthma to avoid the erroneous inclusion in these clinical trials of patients with other diseases such as the Churg-Strauss syndrome, chronic eosinophilic leukemia, lymphocyte-variant hypereosinophilia, and idiopathic hypereosinophilic syndrome that may mimick the clinical features of asthma and are usually associated with minimal response to ICSs but may respond to anti-Th2 cytokine treatment.
      • Rothenberg M.E.
      • Klion A.D.
      • Roufosse F.E.
      • et al.
      Treatment of patients with the hypereosinophilic syndrome with mepolizumab.
      Furthermore, the Th2 signatures investigated so far are not very specific and more selective Th2 biomarkers such as the Th2 transcription factor GATA-3 may be more rewarding
      • Caramori G.
      • Casolari P.
      • Adcock I.
      Role of transcription factors in the pathogenesis of asthma and COPD.
      and compounds targeting this pathway are under clinical development.
      • Fuhst R.
      • Runge F.
      • Buschmann J.
      • et al.
      Toxicity profile of the GATA-3-specific DNAzyme hgd40 after inhalation exposure.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Fig 1Asthma occurs in the airway because of the combined responses of structural cells such as epithelial cells and immune cells, macrophages and dendritic cells in response to aero allergens, viruses, or other environmental challenges. This results in the production of a host of inflammatory mediators that drive the disease process. There are at least 2 major types of asthma—Th2-high and Th2-low—dependent on the presence of selected Th2 molecular signatures including periostin and high levels of sputum and blood eosinophils in response to Th2 cytokines such as IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13. Asthmatic patients with uncontrolled severe disease despite high doses of ICSs and having high eosinophils and blood periostin respond to anti–IL-5 and anti–IL-13 therapy. There is a negligible clinical response to anti–IL-1, anti–IL-4, anti–IL-17, or TNF-α treatment. Non-Th2 patients are believed to have a more mixed lymphocyte profile involving Th1 and Th2 cells. They respond to anti-CXCR2 antagonists but not to anti–IL-1, anti–IL-8, or TNF-α treatment. Studies using anti–IL-17 or other antineutrophil approaches are yet to be completed. ICS, inhaled corticosteroid; IFN, interferon; IgE, immunoglobulin E; IL, interleukin; TNF, tumor necrosis factor.

      Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

      The progressive chronic airflow limitation in COPD results from 2 major pathologic processes: remodeling and narrowing of small airways and destruction of the lung parenchyma (pulmonary emphysema) with consequent loss of the alveolar attachments of these airways. This results in diminished lung recoil, higher resistance to flow, and closure of small airways at higher lung volumes during expiration, with consequent air trapping in the lung. This leads to the characteristic lung hyperinflation, which gives rise to the sensation of dyspnea and decreased exercise tolerance. Both small-airway remodeling and narrowing and pulmonary emphysema result from chronic peripheral lung inflammation.
      • Caramori G.
      • Kirkham P.
      • Barczyk A.
      • Di S.A.
      • Adcock I.
      Molecular pathogenesis of cigarette smoking-induced stable COPD.
      There are increased number of macrophages, neutrophils, T lymphocytes, dendritic cells, and B lymphocytes in the lower airways of patients with stable COPD.
      • Barnes P.J.
      New anti-inflammatory targets for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      However, the predominant inflammatory cell type varies with disease severity, with an increased number of neutrophils and B lymphocytes in the most severe (III and IV) grades.
      • Barnes P.J.
      New anti-inflammatory targets for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      • Hogg J.C.
      • Chu F.
      • Utokaparch S.
      • et al.
      The nature of small-airway obstruction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      Eosinophils are more pronounced during viral-induced severe COPD exacerbations.
      • Papi A.
      • Bellettato C.M.
      • Braccioni F.
      • et al.
      Infections and airway inflammation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease severe exacerbations.
      In contrast to asthma, there is a preferential increase in CD8+ and CD4+ cells associated with the production of interferon gamma,
      • Di Stefano A.
      • Caramori G.
      • Capelli A.
      • et al.
      STAT4 activation in smokers and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      although Th2 cytokines such as IL-4 are also increased in COPD patients.
      • Barczyk A.
      • Pierzchala W.
      • Kon O.M.
      • Cosio B.
      • Adcock I.M.
      • Barnes P.J.
      Cytokine production by bronchoalveolar lavage T lymphocytes in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      Th17 cell numbers are also increased in bronchial biopsies of COPD patients.
      • Di Stefano A.
      • Caramori G.
      • Gnemmi I.
      • et al.
      T helper type 17-related cytokine expression is increased in the bronchial mucosa of stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients.
      The role of the increased number of B lymphocytes in severe and very severe COPD is unknown, but they may be associated with the increased presence of autoantibodies directed against oxidized proteins.
      • Kirkham P.A.
      • Caramori G.
      • Casolari P.
      • et al.
      Oxidative stress-induced antibodies to carbonyl-modified protein correlate with severity of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

      Inhibiting Inflammatory Mediators in COPD

      Reduced response to the anti-inflammatory action of corticosteroids in stable COPD

      In contrast to asthma, glucocorticoid treatment of stable COPD is rather ineffective in reducing airway inflammation and the decline of lung function.
      • Barnes P.J.
      Corticosteroid resistance in patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      A Cochrane review of the role of regular long-term treatment with ICSs alone vs placebo in patients with stable COPD has concluded that it reduces significantly the mean rate of exacerbations and the rate of decline of quality of life but not the decline in FEV1 or mortality rates.
      • Yang I.A.
      • Clarke M.S.
      • Sim E.H.
      • Fong K.M.
      Inhaled corticosteroids for stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      Current national and international guidelines for the management of stable COPD patients recommend the use of inhaled long-acting bronchodilators, ICSs, and their combination for maintenance treatment of moderate-to-severe stable COPD.

      Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). Global strategy for the diagnosis, management and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. NHLBI/WHO workshop report 2001. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. NIH Publication 2701: 1–100. Last update 2015. Available at: www.goldcopd.com. Accessed May 11, 2015.

      ICS treatment is also associated with adverse effects such as increased risk of oropharyngeal candidiasis, hoarseness, and pneumonia.
      • Yang I.A.
      • Clarke M.S.
      • Sim E.H.
      • Fong K.M.
      Inhaled corticosteroids for stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      Several large controlled clinical trials of inhaled combination therapy with ICSs and LABAs in a single device in stable COPD have shown that this combination therapy is well tolerated and produces a modest but statistically significant reduction in the number of severe exacerbations and improvement in FEV1, quality of life, and respiratory symptoms in stable COPD patients, with no greater risk of adverse effects than that with use of either component alone. Increased risk of pneumonia is a concern; however, this did not translate into increased exacerbations, hospitalizations, or deaths.
      • Nannini L.J.
      • Poole P.
      • Milan S.J.
      • Holmes R.
      • Normansell R.
      Combined corticosteroid and long-acting beta(2)-agonist in one inhaler versus placebo for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      In addition, the Towards a Revolution in COPD Health study showed a 17% relative reduction in mortality for more than 3 years for patients receiving combined salmeterol and fluticasone propionate, although this just failed to reach significance.
      • Calverley P.M.
      • Anderson J.A.
      • Celli B.
      • et al.
      Salmeterol and fluticasone propionate and survival in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      Blood eosinophil count is a promising biomarker of the response to ICSs in COPD and could potentially be used to stratify patients for different exacerbation rate reduction strategies.
      • Pascoe S.
      • Locantore N.
      • Dransfield M.T.
      • Barnes N.C.
      • Pavord I.D.
      Blood eosinophil counts, exacerbations, and response to the addition of inhaled fluticasone furoate to vilanterol in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a secondary analysis of data from two parallel randomised controlled trials.
      Corticosteroid suppression of many inflammatory genes requires recruitment of histone deacetylases (HDACs) to the gene activation complex by the activated glucocorticoid receptor. Oxidative stress reduces HDAC2 expression and activity, thus potentially limiting glucocorticoid effectiveness in suppressing inflammation in vitro studies and in patients with COPD.
      • Barnes P.J.
      Corticosteroid resistance in patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      Overexpression of HDAC2 restores glucocorticoid sensitivity in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) macrophages from COPD patients. Theophylline at concentrations that do not inhibit phosphodiesterase 4 activity enhances HDAC2 activity and functionally this enhances glucocorticoid effects.
      • Barnes P.J.
      Corticosteroid resistance in patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      This effect may be via phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K)δ-induced hyperphosphorylation of HDAC2 particularly because PI3Kδ is upregulated in peripheral lung tissue of patients with COPD.
      • Barnes P.J.
      Corticosteroid resistance in patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      In a small clinical study of 30 patients with stable COPD treatment with low-dose slow-release theophylline plus low-dose inhaled fluticasone significantly reduced sputum neutrophils and improved lung function, and this was associated with an increase in HDAC2 activity in circulating peripheral blood monocytes.
      • Ford P.A.
      • Durham A.L.
      • Russell R.E.
      • Gordon F.
      • Adcock I.M.
      • Barnes P.J.
      Treatment effects of low-dose theophylline combined with an inhaled corticosteroid in COPD.
      The results of an ongoing phase II controlled study (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02130635) on the efficacy of a highly selective inhaled PI3Kδ inhibitor (GSK2269557) in patients with stable COPD are awaited with interest.

      Anticytokine and Chemokine Treatment in COPD

      There is ample evidence of enhanced inflammation in COPD particularly of cytokines linked to cell recruitment and activation.
      • Barnes P.J.
      New anti-inflammatory targets for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      • Caramori G.
      • Di Stefano A.
      • Casolari P.
      • et al.
      Chemokines and chemokine receptors blockers as new drugs for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      • Caramori G.
      • Adcock I.M.
      • Di Stefano A.
      • Chung K.F.
      Cytokine inhibition in the treatment of COPD.
      Although many of these have been proposed to play a role in COPD pathophysiology, increased levels do not constitute evidence for a physiological role in disease, which requires efficacy in clinical trials. However, few trials of blocking antibodies against cytokines and chemokines or their receptors have proved successful. For example, although both tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) and CXCL8 are increased in COPD airways and sputum, the clinical effects of both anti–TNF-α and anti-CXCL8 were not encouraging.
      • Barnes P.J.
      New anti-inflammatory targets for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      Treatment with infliximab for 6 months in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial demonstrated no clinical benefit but was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and pneumonia.
      • Rennard S.I.
      • Fogarty C.
      • Kelsen S.
      • et al.
      The safety and efficacy of infliximab in moderate-to-severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      The lack of effect of anti–TNF-α in COPD is in stark contrast to the beneficial effect seen in other chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
      • Feldmann M.
      • Williams R.O.
      • Paleolog E.
      What have we learnt from targeted anti-TNF therapy?.
      CXCL1, CXCL5, and CXCL8 are neutrophil chemoattractants whose expression is increased in COPD airways and who signal through CXCR2. This suggests that blocking this common receptor could reduce the chemotaxis of neutrophils.
      • Barnes P.J.
      New anti-inflammatory targets for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      In a 6-month double-blind randomized study, patients with moderate-to-severe COPD (already on standard therapy) were given 10, 30, or 50 mg of the small molecule inhibitor of CXCR2 MK-7123 (also known as SCH527123) or placebo daily.
      • Rennard S.I.
      • Dale D.C.
      • Donohue J.F.
      • et al.
      CXCR2 antagonist MK-7123. A phase 2 proof-of-concept trial for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      The primary endpoint was change from baseline in postbronchodilator FEV1 (www.clinicaltrials.gov NCT01006616). MK-7123 resulted in a dose-dependent 67 mL improvement in FEV1 over placebo, a significant reduction in sputum neutrophils and reduced levels of sputum and plasma matrix metallopeptidase-9 and myeloperoxidase. The effect seen was greater in smokers compared with ex-smokers.
      • Rennard S.I.
      • Dale D.C.
      • Donohue J.F.
      • et al.
      CXCR2 antagonist MK-7123. A phase 2 proof-of-concept trial for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      In addition, although IL-1β amplifies inflammation and its concentration is increased in the sputum of patients with COPD, canakinumab, an anti–IL-1β-specific antibody, also had no clinical efficacy in COPD after 45 weeks of treatment (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier, NCT00581945). IL-6 concentrations increased in sputum, BAL, and serum, and because of its role in amplifying inflammation may be a useful therapeutic agent in COPD. An IL-6R–specific antibody (tocilizumab) is effective in patients with rheumatoid arthritis who are refractory to anti–TNF-α therapy
      • Strand V.
      • Burmester G.R.
      • Ogale S.
      • Devenport J.
      • John A.
      • Emery P.
      Improvements in health-related quality of life after treatment with tocilizumab in patients with rheumatoid arthritis refractory to tumour necrosis factor inhibitors: results from the 24-week randomized controlled RADIATE study.
      but no studies have been performed in COPD patients.
      Human neutrophil elastase is elastolytic, proinflammatory, and increases mucus secretion, and there is increased release from neutrophils in COPD and enhanced levels in sputum and BAL from patients with COPD. Despite AZ9668 being effective in animal models of COPD, no clinical improvement was observed for more than a period of 3 months in patients with COPD.
      • Vogelmeier C.
      • Aquino T.O.
      • O'Brien C.D.
      • Perrett J.
      • Gunawardena K.A.
      A randomised, placebo-controlled, dose-finding study of AZD9668, an oral inhibitor of neutrophil elastase, in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treated with tiotropium.
      Other proliferative agents such as epidermal growth factor whose expression is increased in COPD and enhances mucus hypersecretion have been proposed to have pathophysiological roles in COPD. Despite the effectiveness of gefitinib, for example, in some patients with lung cancer, an inhaled epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor (BIBW-2948) did not substantially reduce gene expression or show any clinical benefit in patients with COPD.
      • Woodruff P.G.
      • Wolff M.
      • Hohlfeld J.M.
      • et al.
      Safety and efficacy of an inhaled epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor (BIBW 2948 BS) in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      There has recently been much interest in the potential of targeting IL-5 in COPD patients, especially for treatment during exacerbations. Although IL-5 is associated with a Th2-driven immune response, there is evidence showing increased IL-5 levels in COPD patients during exacerbations and also in specific COPD phenotypes, including asthma-COPD overlap syndrome.
      • Bathoorn E.
      • Kerstjens H.
      • Postma D.
      • Timens W.
      • MacNee W.
      Airways inflammation and treatment during acute exacerbations of COPD.
      It is estimated that ∼16% of COPD patients have the asthma-COPD overlap syndrome.
      • Miravitlles M.
      • Barrecheguren M.
      • Román-Rodríguez M.
      Frequency and characteristics of different clinical phenotypes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
      These patients are normally younger and suffer from higher frequency and severity exacerbations compared with other COPD patients. A decrease in soluble IL-5Rα is associated with the resolution of viral-driven COPD exacerbation.
      • Bathoorn E.
      • Kerstjens H.
      • Postma D.
      • Timens W.
      • MacNee W.
      Airways inflammation and treatment during acute exacerbations of COPD.
      Benralizumab, an anti–IL-5Rα MAb, did not reduce the rate of acute exacerbations of COPD. However, the results of prespecified subgroup analysis support further investigation of benralizumab in patients with COPD and eosinophilia.
      • Brightling C.E.
      • Bleecker E.R.
      • Panettieri Jr., R.A.
      • et al.
      Benralizumab for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and sputum eosinophilia: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2a study.
      Numerous other drugs targeting specific inflammatory mediators are under investigation for COPD, and these include antibodies directed against IL-18, IL-22, IL-23, IL-33, TSLP, and Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). It is unlikely that mouse models of COPD will be anymore predictive than those seen to date and it is only going to be possible to determine whether this approach will work is to try these approaches in COPD itself.
      As seen in asthma, patient selection is likely to be critical for obtaining optimal clinical responses with anticytokine or other anti-inflammatory therapies. COPD patients present with a variable mix of distinct phenotypes such as emphysema, bronchitis, small airways disease, frequent vs infrequent exacerbators, or those with a rapid decline in lung function, which are independent of genetic background.
      • Han M.K.
      • Agusti A.
      • Calverley P.M.
      • et al.
      Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease phenotypes: the future of COPD.
      Importantly, the level of chronic airflow obstruction is not enough to encompass the diversity of presentation of COPD.
      • Agusti A.
      • Calverley P.M.
      • Celli B.
      • et al.
      Characterisation of COPD heterogeneity in the ECLIPSE cohort.
      The inclusion of inflammatory markers in addition to more defined subphenotyping of COPD patients may enable the detection of COPD endotypes which, as seen with anti–IL-5Rα MAb treatment, has the potential for a more personalized treatment approach in the future as opposed to the present relatively ineffective global treatment strategy of glucocorticoids and LABA.

      Conclusions

      The concept of phenotyping is not only an important step toward improved understanding of disease, but is also required to tailor asthma and COPD management to the individual patient needs as part of stratified medicine. Ultimately, phenotypes will evolve into asthma “endotypes,” which combine clinical characteristics with identifiable mechanistic pathways.
      Clinical relevance of phenotyping in airways disease has been exemplified by randomized trials in asthma, for example, in which therapeutic efficacy could be predicted or improved by taking inflammatory characteristics into account. Neutrophilic airway inflammation was found to be associated with poor corticosteroid responses and corticosteroid treatment guided by eosinophilic inflammation led to better disease outcome than standard clinical management. In addition, asthma therapy with new biologicals, for example anti–IL-5 or anti–IL-13, appears to be far more effective if patients are selected using cellular (eg, eosinophils) or molecular (eg, periostin) biomarkers. This demonstrates the key role of individual inflammatory mediators in driving the inflammatory response in asthma and highlights the need for accurate disease (sub)phenotyping to optimize disease management and drug development.
      The use of novel inflammatory mediator-targeted therapeutic agents in selected patients with asthma or COPD and the detection of markers of responsiveness or nonresponsiveness will allow a link between clinical phenotypes and pathophysiological mechanisms to be delineated reaching the goal of endotyping each patient. Early blood or exhaled biomarkers of subphenotypes and/or treatment response will be important to ensure that patients can be taken off a treatment early if it is ineffective to reduce the risk of any possible adverse effects in an adaptive design clinical study or in real life.

      Acknowledgments

      Conflicts of Interest: All authors have read the journal's authorship agreement and conflict of interest policy. The authors have no potential conflict of interest to declare in relation to the contents of this review.
      A.L.D. is supported by the British Lung Foundation (RG14-10) and Pfizer (8500205563). K.F.C. is supported by grants from Asthma UK (08/041), the Wellcome Trust (085935), and by the Medical Research Council (MRC) (G1001367/1). G.C. is supported by the University of Ferrara (FAR) and unrestricted educational grants from AstraZeneca Italy, Boehringer Ingelheim Italy, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Italy. K.F.C. is a Senior Investigator of National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), UK. I.M.A. is supported by the MRC (G1001367/1), the Wellcome Trust (093080/Z/10/Z), European Union Innovative Medicines Initiative (EU-IMI) (115010), the Dunhill Medical Trust (R368/0714), and by the British Heart Foundation (PG/14/27/30679). I.M.A. and K.F.C. are members of Interuniversity Attraction Poles Program-Belgian State-Belgian Science Policy-project P7/30. A.L.D., K.F.C. and I.M.A. are also supported by the NIHR Respiratory Disease Biomedical Research Unit at the Royal Brompton NHS Foundation Trust and Imperial College London. K.F.C. and I.M.A. are funded through the Innovative Medicines Initiative in terms of the Unbiased BIOmarkers in PREDiction of respiratory disease outcomes (UBIOPRED) project, which is looking into a systems biology approach to severe asthma. No funding was obtained for the writing of this manuscript.

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