"I think it's a novel pathway," he said.
Most current medications try to reduce inflammation or improve bronchodilation. The researchers want to see whether ibuprofen can improve lung tissue repair.
Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that involves damage to air sacs in the lungs. It is often combined with chronic bronchitis and other lung problems. Emphysema damage keeps the body from getting enough oxygen.
In the United States, Criner said, COPD is the third leading cause of death. "We need new therapies," he said.
Ninety-two percent of patients are smokers.
Temple is one of three clinical sites that will conduct the ibuprofen study. National Jewish Health in Denver and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center are also recruiting patients. The University of Nebraska is coordinating data for the three-year, $4.4 million study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Temple hopes to recruit 50 to 75 of the 150 patients in the trial.
The purpose of the trial is to see whether ibuprofen blocks production of prostaglandin E in the lung. The fatty acid is believed to increase in COPD and impair normal tissue repair. Patients with higher levels of prostaglandin E have greater reductions in lung function, Criner said.
Ibuprofen is known to block prostaglandins in other parts of the body. Criner said some studies have shown that the drug can improve lung function in cystic fibrosis, although the mechanism is not clear.
To be eligible for the randomized, placebo-controlled trial, patients must have emphysema in at least 5 percent of their lungs. Over three months, participants will take either 600 mg of ibuprofen three times a day or a placebo. Researchers will look at measures of tissue repair and damage.
Criner said Temple was also involved in a large, national study of smokers over time. It is testing less invasive ways to do lung-reduction surgery and new injectable, biologic drugs for COPD.
A recent Temple study found that statin drugs did not help COPD patients.