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'Asthma' is not one condition; there are many different types of asthma and we need to understand more about the different causes and best treatment options. The challenge for researchers now is to better understand the different types, find ways to identify what type of asthma people have, and develop treatments that mean that people can receive treatment for 'their' asthma rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
In 2010 the Medical Research Council (MRC) announced a large investment for a variety of conditions in an area of research called 'stratified medicine', with the first funding awards made in 2012. Stratified medicine aims to separate people with a condition into different groups and then treat them appropriately for their type of the condition. As part of this funding, at the beginning of 2015 the MRC are invested £4.8 million into research to better understand and treat severe asthma.
Asthma UK are partnering with the MRC, researchers, and pharmaceutical and industry partners on the Refractory Asthma Stratification Programme (RASP-UK). The investment from the MRC has been matched by private investment, resulting in a £9.6 million project to better understand and treat people with severe asthma, many of whom do not respond to current asthma treatments.
The study is now underway with over 100 patients recruited out of a target of 400 people with severe asthma. All patients will be placed into a trial based on a variety of measurements, before the measurements split them into different categories. The participants will then take part in a clinical trial to find out if there are better ways to treat people with severe asthma.
As well as demonstrating the benefits of collaboration on funding a project, this study will also show the benefits of collaborating during research; academic researchers will team up with industry partners and the NHS to run the study successfully, as well as working with Asthma UK to involve people with asthma.
If you would like to take part in any of the studies as a participant, visit the RASP-UK website to see which hospitals and institutions are recruiting people with severe asthma. The project is now underway and will run for 3 years until October 2018.
People with asthma making sure that important research happens
"This study is an example of how you can involve people with asthma in research and put them at the heart of what's happening." Quote from Val, Asthma UK Research and Policy volunteer and member of RASP-UK Patient Input Platform
The MRC in 2016 noted the 'productive and imaginative patient involvement around the various workstreams' so far in RASP-UK.
Our Research and Policy volunteers, all people affected by asthma, told us that moving towards this more personalised mode of treatment, especially for people with severe asthma who doesn't respond well to treatments, should be a priority for research. Using their feedback, the researchers came together and developed this plan, which captures all of the aspects that our volunteers wanted. Some of our volunteers are still involved in the project and support the researchers with a variety of aspects all of the time using their experience of severe asthma to ensure that the project is relevant to people with asthma.
Val is involved with the RASP-UK project read more about how she uses her experience with asthma to contribute to asthma research.