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Antifibrotics may help IPF patients waiting for a lung transplantation

One can only imagine the psychological difficulties of waiting for a lifesaving donor organ while the clock mercilessly keeps ticking on. A Belgian study seems to offer some hope to IPF-patients that are stuck in this purgatory-like situation. While a lung transplantation still only applies to few patients and a lot more donor lungs are need, researchers now show that antifibrotic drugs can slow-down disease progression and bridge the time until transplantation.

Lung transplantation is a treatment for patients with lung fibrosis that no longer respond to other therapies. Due to a high risk of disease worsening and death, patients awaiting a lung transplant face a very uncertain and difficult time. Although antifibrotic drugs can stabilize the disease, they are not curative and are associated with side effects.


In order to improve the treatment of patients with IPF, dr. Isabelle Delanote and colleagues from Leuven, Belgium, performed a study in which they evaluated the outcome of IPF patients treated with antifibrotic drugs before proceeding to lung transplantation. The investigators observed no major side effects following treatment, although weight loss occurred during antifibrotic treatment. Importantly, overall the results indicated that pre-transplantation treatment with antifibrotic drugs resulted in a stabilization or moderate decline of lung function. Furthermore, the antifibrotic drugs were not associated with post-operative complications and none of the patients died of IPF within the first year following transplantation.

Based on these encouraging results, the investigators conclude that pre-transplantation treatment of IPF patients with antifibrotic drugs seems to be safe and effective in slowing-down disease progression. However, the investigators also mention that the results need to be confirmed in a larger, preferably prospective, study before firm conclusions can be made.

Delanite I, Wuyts WA, Yserbyt J, et al. Safety and efficacy of bridging to lung transplantation with antifibrotic drugs in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: a case series. BMC Pulm Med 2016;16(1):156.