Actress Anjelica Huston's Words Greet Scientists As They Ponder Deadly Lung Disease Affecting Horses, Dogs, Cats, Humans

Apr 24, 2014, 20:25 PM

Scientists to Convene in Louisville, KY on 'Fibrosis Across Species' April 27-29

LOUISVILLE, KY., April 24, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Actress Anjelica Huston's words will greet researchers from around the globe when they meet later this week to better understand Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF). The lung disease has no FDA approved treatments and is killing horses, including thoroughbred horses, and other domestic animals, just as it's claiming an increasing number of human lives. The scientists are hoping the animals will hold a key to finding desperately needed treatments faster for both.

Huston, a lifetime horse enthusiast and advocate, wrote a passionate letter encouraging the work at this breakthrough meeting and challenging scientists to move the field of PF research forward.

"I am very intrigued and interested in the comparative work you are doing to bridge this gap between horses, other domestic animals and humans with pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that affects and claims lives without lifesaving treatment options," Huston wrote. "Thank you for your dedication to work that will help to better understand and ultimately eradicate fibrosis across species. I hope this meeting will lead you to the breakthroughs you need to cure this devastating disease and will lead to the adoption of a new comparative approach that will produce progress and save lives in so many others."

Human lung disease researchers and veterinarians will meet for the "Fibrosis Across Species" workshop being convened by the Westie Foundation of America (WFA) and hosted by the University of Louisville's Medical Center and its Equine Center April 27-29 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY just days prior to the running of the world famous Kentucky Derby.

This unusual combination of human and veterinary scientists is tasked with creating a roadmap for comparative research in PF. Comparative research - or research that compares human disease to similar diseases in animals - has been used successfully in the treatment of cancer and, in fact, there is a comparative research division at the National Cancer Institute.

Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) is a little known lung disease among most of the public, yet the disease claims as many human lives each year as breast cancer. In addition to horses, the disease is also known to affect cats, and dogs, especially terrier breeds of dog like the West Highland White Terrier (WHWT). There are no approved drugs for the disease in the United States, though a drug has been approved in Japan, the European Union and Canada.

"We are concerned about the growing incidence and prevalence of Pulmonary Fibrosis and realize that research done the customary way has limitations," said Jesse Roman, M.D., a human PF researcher and Chair of Medicine at the University of Louisville and a leader of the meeting. "Studying animals, in particular horses and dogs, may allow us to better understand the underlying causes of this lung disease and how to best tackle finding life-saving treatments for all affected species."

"We are pleased to convene this stellar team of scientists who will review and compare fibrotic disease in animals and humans and pave the way for major discovery," said Bebe Pinter, CEO of the Westie Foundation of America.

The "Fibrosis Across Species" meeting will build on the success of a 2007 meeting, also convened by the WFA, that brought together human and veterinary scientists to discuss similarities between the WHWT and human forms of PF. The scientific paper from the 2007 meeting was published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society [View the Abstract]. The paper identifies similarities across species and makes strong suggestions for a path forward. One of the experts' recommendations is the convening of a meeting that fits the mold of the Fibrosis Across Species meeting.

Many of the key researchers in that meeting will be leading the Louisville meeting along with key advocacy organizations, along with the WFA.

Together with Pinter, Dr. Roman is working with other key scientists and PF experts to convene the meeting that include Kevin Brown, M.D. and Amy Olson, M.D., of National Jewish Health in Denver; Dennis E. Doherty, M.D., of the University of Kentucky Medical Center and the Lexington Veteran's Administration hospital; Patricia Olson, D.V.M., Ph.D.; Andrew M. Tager, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Kay McGuire, D.V.M., vice president, health of the Westie Foundation of America's Board of Directors; Tim Capps, of the University of Louisville's Equine Division; Kurt Williams, D.V.M., of Michigan State; Kentucky-based advocate Angie Wingfield, Teresa Barnes, a PF advocate who developed the FAS meeting, vice president of the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis and member of the Westie Foundation of America Board of Directors and vice president of patient relations and medical affairs, Dolly Kervitsky, RCP,CCRC of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.

Sponsors for the meeting include: InterMune, Inc., Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Biogen Idec, Inc., Genentech, Inc., The Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis, The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, The Hermansky Pudlak Syndrome Network, The West Highland White Terrier Club of America, The West Highland White Terrier Club of Southeast Texas, Suburbia North Animal Hospital in Houston, Skyehigh Westies, The Shamrock Westie Family and individual donors including Westie Foundation of America Past President Wayne Kompare and Roberta Macabee.

For a full agenda for the meeting and to learn more, please visit

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