Inflammation in cystic fibrosis lung disease: Pathogenesis and therapy

J Cyst Fibros. 2015 Jul;14(4):419-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jcf.2015.03.003. Epub 2015 Mar 23.


Lung disease is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). Although CF lung disease is primarily an infectious disorder, the associated inflammation is both intense and ineffective at clearing pathogens. Persistent high-intensity inflammation leads to permanent structural damage of the CF airways and impaired lung function that eventually results in respiratory failure and death. Several defective inflammatory responses have been linked to cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) deficiency including innate and acquired immunity dysregulation, cell membrane lipid abnormalities, various transcription factor signaling defects, as well as altered kinase and toll-like receptor responses. The inflammation of the CF lung is dominated by neutrophils that release oxidants and proteases, particularly elastase. Neutrophil elastase in the CF airway secretions precedes the appearance of bronchiectasis, and correlates with lung function deterioration and respiratory exacerbations. Anti-inflammatory therapies are therefore of particular interest for CF lung disease but must be carefully studied to avoid suppressing critical elements of the inflammatory response and thus worsening infection. This review examines the role of inflammation in the pathogenesis of CF lung disease, summarizes the results of past clinical trials and explores promising new anti-inflammatory options.

Keywords: Anti-inflammatory therapies; Bronchiectasis; Cystic fibrosis; Lung inflammation; Mucosal immunity; Neutrophils.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / pathology
  • Cystic Fibrosis / therapy
  • Humans
  • Pneumonia / etiology*
  • Pneumonia / therapy*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents