One of the first participants to sign up was Molly Lynch, from Chichester. Molly was 11 when she was diagnosed following a bout of pneumonia two years ago. Having previously suffered no respiratory problems she needed an inhaler to control her asthma. Of greatest concern were her coughing fits which could go on for an hour.
Molly’s mother Sarah heard about the PACT trial during a visit to their GP surgery. Molly agreed to take part and was randomised to personalised medicine group. As a result, Molly’s asthma improved significantly. All her symptoms have reduced, her Peak Flow Meter readings have improved and she now enjoys some mornings without coughing.
Sarah said: “We signed up for the trial because Molly had been diagnosed quite late and she went from a situation where she was fine to one where she was struggling. The cough was particularly extreme but Molly’s asthma has improved a lot since she joined the trial. Personalised treatment has really helped and shown that she was obviously on the wrong medication before. I would encourage anyone who fits the study criteria to take part.”
Professor Somnath Mukhopadhyay, Chair of Paediatrics at BSMS, said, “Our research has previously found that around 15 per cent of children and young adults have a particular gene variation that is linked to poor asthma control with this treatment. That’s why we are investigating whether young people’s genetic make-up should be taken into account when deciding whether to give them the routinely-used salmeterol, or an alternative medication called montelukast.”
Professor Mukhopadhyay said not receiving effective treatment for asthma results in more school absences and more emergency visits to the GP or hospital. Long term, this poor asthma control could have an impact on their education and future job prospects.
All new participants will be asked to provide a saliva sample in order to find out their genetic status.
Up to half of the participants will be prescribed an asthma add-controller medication according to their gene test results, and the others will be given standard treatment without knowledge of their gene test, as is currently the case.
The participants will report from home online by completing questionnaires about their quality of life at three, six, nine and 12-months after commencing the study. This new method of collecting research data will avoid the need for hospital visits for children and young people, save costs and will show whether the personalised approach improves life quality. At the end of the study, all participants and their GPs will be given the results of their gene test and a summary of the study results.
Young people aged 12-18 years with asthma, parents of a young person with asthma, and healthcare professionals caring for patients with asthma can find out more about the study at www.pactstudy.org.uk or by calling the Tayside Clinical Trials Unit on 01382 383932.