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The Daily Wildcat


UA professor discusses personalized asthma treatment

David Pujol

Monica Kraft and Charles Cairns speak about the future work that will be done with the grant for the Precision Medicine Program All of Us, at the Westin La Paloma Resort, Feb. 28.

UA medical professor Monica Kraft, M.D., began her lecture Tuesday with one question; “How many of you here have asthma or know somebody who does?” to which the clear majority of the standing-room-only audience raised their hands.

The Feb. 28 lecture on the topic of asthma presented by Kraft, the associate director of the UA Health Sciences Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, was called “Take a Deep Breath: Is a Cure for Asthma on the Horizon?”

Kraft, was introduced by the Dean of the College of Medicine Charles Cairns, M.D.,, telling the audience, “we’ve been welcoming anyone interested in innovation, excellence and impact here to Tucson and one of those people is your speaker here tonight.”

Kraft, a chair of the UA Department of Medicine began by speaking on one of her cases, a 38-year-old female with persistent asthma who is on oral steroids and presented to the emergency department with shortness of breath and wheezing. She said the woman was diagnosed at 13 and had been hospitalized over 30 times in her life for asthma.

Kraft said the woman still struggled with day-to-day life with asthma, and how her medication regimen is now a big part of her life . Researchers are hoping to fit medicines and treatments more to each individual based on what is causing their symptoms and their severity.

“The reason we do all this is we want to tailor treatments to patients and that is the ultimate of personalized therapy and hopefully we can even take it back and alternate the microbiomes and even prevent asthma,” Kraft said.

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Mariana McCune, a biology and Spanish literature freshman attended the lecture in support of Kraft, who is her principal investigator in the lab that McCune works in.

“I wanted to support her but this also sounded like a fun event, even my dad heard about it on the radio and it was interesting to learn about the different predispositions that can affect you in terms of asthma, like being a C-section baby,” McCune said.

Kraft said a $43 million grant that UA received for the precision medicine initiative will help lead to finding a more developed approach to individualized therapy. The recruitment of patients is vital to create a large biobank for researchers to study.

This precision medicine initiative All of Us is putting Arizona at the forefront of innovative personalized treatment, and Kraft sees herself as a part of that. “I’m going to enroll as a subject in this, because if I’m gonna ask my patients to do this then I’ll do it too,” Kraft said.

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The lectures have been popular on campus.

“I think it went extremely well, our attendance exceeded all expectations; all of the lectures sold out, so we know there is a lot of demand for this kind of information,” Cairns said.

Carins said they are already exploring topics and speakers for future talks.

“If you want to hear how we can make a difference in your lives, the lives of your friends, family, the community and relations of Arizona then I think you’ll want to hear these lectures and hear from the faculty who are part of these innovations,” Cairns said.

Those wanting to find out more about the participating in the All of Us program and helping create a biobank to improve personalized medicine can visit the website here.

Follow David Pujol on Twitter.

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