USF Health, Tampa General pulmonary program joins prestigious global organizations

Tampa General Hospital and USF Health have joined with two organizations that they expect will have an impact on lung health globally. Tampa General Hospital Center for Advanced Lung Disease & Lung Transplant is a founding member of the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research Global Sarcoidosis Clinic Alliance and has also partnered with the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Care Center Network.

“Our goal is to bring world-class innovative pulmonary care to the Tampa Bay region and beyond and provide our team with the ability to collaborate with research and make an impact in improving the outcomes and care of patients with sarcoidosis,’’ says Dr. Debabrata Bandyopadhyay in a press release.

He is director of interstitial lung disease and sarcoidosis at the TGH lung disease center and an associate professor of internal medicine at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

Dr. Bandyopadhyay talked with 83 Degrees Tampa Bay about sarcoidosis, pulmonary fibrosis and the advantage of being in the network of these two organizations.

What is sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is a rare condition that causes some local swelling in the tissue… and that leads to inflammation in various organs of the body. And if untreated, some of the inflammation goes to scar formation (and) many organs cannot function well.

Does it mainly attack the lungs?

Ninety percent of the cases are lungs and lymph nodes; just in the lungs, 70 percent of the people. But more commonly it is seen in many different organs at the same time.

Is there a treatment for it?

Not everyone needs to be treated. Sometimes treatment causes harm rather than good. … But whoever needs treatment, they need to be treated with steroids. Prednisone is the mainstay treatment. After prednisone, there are many other anti-inflammatory drugs out there. … We have lots of other medicines to treat it with if needed, depending on the severity of the disease.

Do we not know what causes it?

We know the process of what happens when somebody develops sarcoidosis. What we do not know is the exact event which starts the process which incites some people to develop sarcoidosis. Many different agents have been implicated. It is seen more in those people who are firefighters, like those who went to the World Trade Center. First responders. Many of them have sarcoidosis. It is seen in some people who develop a bacteria (that) is a cousin of TB. It’s not exactly tuberculosis but a cousin of that. It is seen in high incidence in somebody who walks in a field exposed to mold, so there must be some inciting agent, but the exact cause which initiates the process is still unclear.

Is the disease fatal?

It is not fatal in that sense. It does not cause direct mortality in the majority of the patients, It’s more of a slow, progressive… disease, so what it does is cause suffering. They are fatigued. They cannot work. They are home-bound.

In some people the disease just goes away. Do we know why?

We do not know the exact cause of why it goes away but it’s something related to the immune system; some (people’s) immune systems make it go away, some immune systems cannot fight it to go away. A lot of other factors have been found to cause the immune system to behave this way. Some genetic markers may be driving the immune system to behave this way.

What percentage of the population has sarcoidosis?

I would say it is maybe 10 people in 100,000 population per year.

What is the advantage of being a member of the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research Global Sarcoidosis Clinic Alliance?

That is a big plus for us. As I said, it is not a common disease. … We always aspire to form a community and exchange each other’s experience so that we can better treat those patients. The Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research is a global platform that brings in all the parts together to exchange ideas, to update and educate. … They do a lot of funding for research as well.

What is the advantage of being designated a Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Care Center Network?

The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation is a national foundation; it’s an umbrella organization which guides us as to how the clinic should be run and how the patients should be managed medically and non-medically. How the patient should be supported by running the support group, what research should be done. It has its own registry and database to guide us as to what is going on with these patients. They have very stringent criteria as to who can be part of the network. At the time we joined, there were only 26 centers in the country. Now they’ve gradually expanded to 56 centers in the country.

How does pulmonary fibrosis develop? What have you discovered so far?

Pulmonary fibrosis is an interesting disease. It is lung scarring. The question is why do (people) develop lung scarring? There are multiple reasons for that. One of the factors is ongoing inflammation like sarcoidosis, like lupus, diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, it can cause lung inflammation. So there are many diseases like that.
It can be due to continuous exposure to antigens by inhaling them that induces scarring of the lung. … It is more common in certain occupations where they inhale the dust, like coal miners, those who deal with silica, those who work with asbestos. They inhale those particles, it goes to the lung and causes lung scarring. And sometimes we do not know what is exactly the origin but we find that patients have got lung scarring. It is mostly seen in the elderly patient population. Below 50 is very rare

Has progress been made in treatment?
Pulmonary fibrosis treatment has been revolutionized in the last seven years. The first-ever drug came out in 2014. It slows down the process of scarring and preserves the lung. Since then it has been found to be effective in many different conditions which lead to scarring of the lung. … Pulmonary fibrosis is one disease where a lot of research is going on. There are at least 20 if not more drug trials going on in ways to treat the fibrosis. So in the future, we’ll have more drugs.

How has the deeper collaboration between Tampa General Hospital and USF Health helped the Tampa General Hospital Center for Advanced Lung Disease & Lung Transplant?

It’s complementary to each other. The reason is Tampa General Hospital has the physical infrastructure to provide care to the patient in the Center for Advanced Lung Disease. The University of South Florida provides the manpower, and being a university it has the research infrastructure to do further research. It is pretty much complementary to each other, and the reason we can provide the best care to the patient is because we work together.

For more information go to Tampa General Hospital Center for Lung Disease & Lung Transplant.

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Philip Morgan is a freelance writer living in St. Petersburg. He is an award-winning reporter who has covered news in the Tampa Bay area for more than 50 years. Phil grew up in Miami and graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. He joined the Lakeland Ledger, where he covered police and city government. He spent 36 years as a reporter for the former Tampa Tribune. During his time at the Tribune, he covered welfare and courts and did investigative reporting before spending 30 years as a feature writer. He worked as a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times for 12 years. He loves writing stories about interesting people, places and issues.