Targeting immune pathways for therapy in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2014 Dec;11 Suppl 5:S322-8. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201403-118AW.


Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are highly prevalent chronic inflammatory diseases of the airways, with differences in etiology, pathogenesis, immunologic mechanisms, clinical presentation, comorbidities, prognosis, and response to treatment. In mild to moderate early-onset allergic asthma, the Th2-driven eosinophilic airway inflammation and the ensuing disease can be well controlled with maintenance treatment with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). In real-life settings, asthma control can be improved by facilitating adherence to ICS treatment and by optimizing inhaler technique. In patients with uncontrolled severe asthma, old and novel therapies targeting specific immunologic pathways should be added according to the underlying endotype/phenotype. In COPD, there is a high unmet need for safe and effective antiinflammatory treatments that not only prevent exacerbations but also have a beneficial impact on the course of the disease and improve survival. Although several new approaches aim to target the chronic neutrophilic pulmonary inflammation per se in patients with COPD, strategies that target the underlying causes of the pulmonary neutrophilia (e.g., smoking, chronic infection, and oxidative stress) might be more successful. In both chronic airway diseases (especially in more difficult, complex cases), the choice of the optimal treatment should be based not only on arbitrary clinical labels but also on the underlying immunopathology.

Keywords: asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; monoclonal antibodies; phenotypes; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Bronchodilator Agents