Utah’s Somer Love Battles CF with Kindness and Strength

By Larry Luxner of CF News Today

Somer Love is sitting at her favorite local hangout, the Landmark Grill in suburban Midvale, happily devouring her lunch. Looming on the horizon to the east are Utah’s majestic Wasatch Mountains, but at more than 10,000 feet above sea level, the range is strictly off-limits to Love — as is nearby Park City and its famous ski resorts, at 7,000 feet above sea level.

That’s because cystic fibrosis (CF) has left Love with only 27 percent of normal lung function.

“I haven’t been to Denver since I was a kid, because it’s harder to breathe there. Even Salt Lake City, at 4,500 feet, is hard,” she told Cystic Fibrosis News Today in a recent interview. “Growing up I was fine, because my lungs were healthier. But I think living in Utah at this higher elevation actually helped strengthen my lungs.”

Love, 39, moved here from New Jersey with her parents when she was nine months old. At 11 months she was diagnosed with CF after her mother had heard that babies who have a salty taste when kissed should be taken for testing.

“We were outside playing in a playpen, and I tasted salty,” she said. “My mom called our pediatrician for a sweat test. I was super healthy and fat. The doctor was probably thinking ‘crazy lady from Jersey.’ But she talked him into doing it, and when the results came back, he called my mother crying.”

Growing up, Love received treatment from the Intermountain Cystic Fibrosis Center located at Primary Children’s Hospital and University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Both centers are accredited by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) and serve mostly patients from Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming — with some coming from as far away as Montana and Nevada.

Love’s first hospitalization was at age 6; she began taking enzymes at 8, because no drugs were available back then. In eighth grade, she got her first nebulized medication.

‘Love to Breathe’

Because of her disease, she quickly developed a strong sense of activism and self-reliance.

“I’ve always been a really positive person. This stems from my parents, with whom I’m very close,” Love said. “They started the local CF chapter here and were on the board. They did everything in their power to help me. When you’re faced with such a challenge, you can either overcome it, or do nothing and let it overcome you.”

She added: “CF is basically my life, especially now that my disease has progressed. From the minute I wake up till the minute I go to bed, I’m constantly thinking about it. I literally think about every breath I take. I’m actually grateful for CF; it’s a blessing in an ugly disguise. It makes me appreciate things more.”

No surprise, then, that the website Love launched in 2001 is called “Love to Breathe” — a play on her last name.

Among other things, the site contains a blog with nearly 700 entries, a compendium of facts about CF, and dozens of photos, videos, and original paintings. There’s also a page dedicated to the CF activist’s #LoveToBreathe tokens; she’s sent out more than 10,000 of these little medallions to CF patients and supporters in all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries.

“I wanted parents to have a place to go for their newly diagnosed children,” she said. “There’s a lot of negativity out there on the Internet, and I wanted people to see somebody being positive. I’m an artist, so I started by sending my paintings to fundraisers all over the country.”

Love said the Internet is especially helpful to CF patients due to the isolating nature of the disease. “We cannot be around any other CF patients, so we connect online,” she said. “My website is a personal endeavor, a way for me to spread love and CF awareness.”

Even so, her main focus is on staying healthy. That means spending six hours a day doing her airway clearance and taking all her medications — about 60 to 80 pills daily. Her morning treatments are one-and-a-half to two hours each, and she must sterilize her “neb cups” afterward.

The transplant option

Love has been taking Symdeko (tezacaftor/ivacaftor and ivacaftor) twice a day ever since the combo therapy — developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals — was approved in February 2018 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But she must eat 10 to 20 grams of fat beforehand.

“Because of our gastrointestinal problems, we don’t absorb nutrients well, so one of the perks of CF is that we can eat whatever we want,” she said. Even so, Love is a vegetarian. She usually eats five small meals daily, with breakfast being her main meal — and she snacks all day long.

Speaking of food, each November, Love’s parents host an event called Taste of Utah. Tickets cost $200 each, and 30 restaurants around the state participate. Last year, the annual fundraiser generated just over $400,000 toward CF research.

Yet, Love herself doesn’t travel much. In fact, she said, “I’m never gone from my house for more than four hours. There are some days I can’t even get out of bed. I also have asthma, which makes things difficult.”

In addition, Love regularly experiences catamenial hemoptysis, a rare hormonal condition that causes her to cough up blood a couple of days before her period. And although she doesn’t have CF-related diabetes or liver disease, motherhood, she said, isn’t a good option for her.

“I grew up knowing that I wasn’t going to have kids,” she said. “I’ve had many friends with CF who have kids, and their health takes a huge decline. Also, I could never be the kind of mom I would want to be. When your child is sick, your first instinct is to cuddle them. But if we get sick, it’s a two-week stay in the joint.”

With the median age of survival for newborns with CF now in the early 40s, Love realizes that a double lung transplant is in her future — though the prospect of such a serious and potentially risky operation is daunting.

“I’m not quite there yet,” she said. “You can’t be too healthy, and you can’t be too sick. But I would absolutely opt for a transplant when the time is right.”

Congratulations to Our Scholarship Winners!

The US Adult CF Association (USACFA) is excited to announce our recipients of the Lauren Melissa Kelly Scholarship for the Spring of 2019.

In our evaluation, we look for students who demonstrate tremendous academic achievement, community involvement and a powerful understanding of how having CF matched with these achievements places them in a unique situation to gain leadership roles within the community. Our scholarship is open to all pursuing any degree, from associates to Ph.Ds. We believe that any higher education is a strong foundation for advocacy and involvement in CF.

We are pleased to announce Rebecca Cedillo and Michael Miccioli as the recipients of this semesters’ scholarship. Congratulations to them! They will be awarded $2500 each.

Both of our recipients demonstrated the leadership, intelligence, and drive of Lauren Melissa Kelly. We at USACFA look forward to seeing them further develop their leadership and advocacy in the cystic fibrosis community.

We are excited to announce more scholarship opportunities coming soon! Please stay tuned for more information. For questions, please contact us at scholarships@usacfa.org.

Nutritional Well-Being After Transplant Measure of Likely Lung Health

By Joana Carvalho

The study, “Impact of nutritional status on pulmonary function after lung transplantation for cystic fibrosis,” was published in the United European Gastroenterology Journal.

CF is the third most common cause for lung transplants worldwide (16.8 percent of all cases). Although the disease is mostly associated with respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal complications are also known to afflict patients, such as diarrhea, constipation, malnutrition, and inflammation in the pancreas, liver and intestines.

Previous studies suggest that malnutrition is linked to a poor prognosis in those needing a lung transplant. However, data on the impact of nutritional status on pulmonary function in those who have received a transplant is still quite limited.

In a retrospective study, a team of researchers at the Medical University of Vienna set out to evaluate the impact of nutritional status on pulmonary function of CF patients who underwent a double lung transplant within a median of 2.3 years.

Patients’ nutritional status was assessed using two different criteria: body mass index (BMI; kg/m2), and body composition measured by bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) — a technique that allows researchers to estimate body composition, especially fat content, by calculating the resistance posed by body tissues to the passage of an electrical current.

Lung health was analyzed by spirometry, a common test based on the amount of air a person can inhale and quickly exhale.

Investigators analyzed a total of 147 spirometries and BIAs performed on 58 CF patients (median age, 30.1), who were divided into four groups depending on their BMI scores. These groups were set according to BMI the guidelines defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), were: malnutrition (less than 18.5 kg/m2), normal weight (18.5–24.9 kg/m2), overweight (25.0–29.9 kg/m2), or obese (more than 30 kg/m2).

Data showed that malnourished patients (27.6%) had a significantly poorer in lung function than those of normal weight (63.8%) or overweight (8.6%), as measured by the percentage of forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1% predicted, 57% vs 77%), and the percentage of maximum vital capacity (percent predicted, 62% vs 75%).

Investigators also found that lung function measured by FEV1% worsened over time in malnourished patients (decreasing by up to 15%), unlike normal weight and overweight individuals. In these patients, FEV1% remained stable throughout the observation period (median of 10.3 months).

Further analysis also showed that the ratio of extracellular mass (ECM) over body cell mass (BCM), as measured by BIA, accurately predicted lung function over time in CF transplant recipients, suggesting that BIA is superior to BMI in predicting patients’ pulmonary function.

The team concluded “nutritional status assessed by BIA predicted lung function in CF transplant recipients,” and suggested that “BIA represents a non-invasive, safe, fast, mobile, and easy-to-use procedure to evaluate body composition. Thus, it may be used in everyday clinical practice and bears the advantage of repeatability at every patient follow-up.”

The researchers also emphasized the importance of multidisciplinary patient care provided by dietitians and gastroenterologists to try and prevent or diminish malnourishment in CF patients, and so help preserve lung function after a transplant.

Original article here. 

Sound Pharmaceuticals to present initial data on the STOP Ototoxicity Study at Cystic Fibrosis Conference

SEATTLESept. 25, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Sound Pharmaceuticals (SPI) is pleased to announce that its recent submission to the upcoming North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference (NACFC) Oct. 18-20 has been selected as a late-breaking abstract. This presentation will focus on the incidence and severity of ototoxicity in CF patients undergoing intravenous (IV) tobramycin treatment for acute pulmonary exacerbation. Ototoxicity (hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo or dizziness) is a common side effect of tobramycin and other aminoglycoside antibiotics (amikacin, gentamycin and streptomycin). Currently, there are no FDA approved therapies for the prevention or treatment of ototoxicity or any other type of sensorineural hearing loss, tinnitus, or dizziness. Continue reading Sound Pharmaceuticals to present initial data on the STOP Ototoxicity Study at Cystic Fibrosis Conference

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Two more weeks to apply for our LMK Scholarship! Due October 15th.

CF Roundtable offers the Lauren Melissa Kelly (LMK) Scholarship award each semester, in honor of Lauren Melissa Kelly. The academic scholarships of up to $2500 are awarded to adults with cystic fibrosis who are pursuing career certifications, associates, and bachelor and graduate degrees. Spring 2019 applications due on October 15th, 2018.  Continue reading Two more weeks to apply for our LMK Scholarship! Due October 15th.

Telavancin Promising Potential Treatment Option for MRSA in Cystic Fibrosis Patients

By Kristi Rosa

Responsible for several issues ranging from skin infections and sepsis to pneumonia and bloodstream infections, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus continues to plague patients in the health care and community setting, as well as the providers who treat them.

When acquired in patients with cystic fibrosis, clinical outcomes are known to be even worse, affecting several organs—primarily the lungs—and resulting in an increased rate of declined respiratory function as well as infections that can have severe, and sometimes deadly, consequences.

Now, however, for the first time, investigators have found that telavancin—a drug that is currently used to treat skin infections and hospital-acquired pneumonia—has potent in vitro activity and low resistance development potential when used against S aureus isolates in patients with cystic fibrosis, making it a promising potential treatment option for this population.

“Telavancin (TLV) is a lipoglycopeptide antibiotic approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2009 for the treatment of complicated skin and skin structure infections and in 2013 for the treatment of cases of nosocomial pneumonia, however its application for the treatment of CF-MRSA pneumonia infections was not known, so our studies are contributing to extending the application of TLV for CF treatment,” Adriana E. Rosato, PhD, associate professor in the department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute told Contagion®. “We were also inspired by the fact that CF patients have a short life time—until 40 to 50 [years]—so our priority is to contribute to better treatment in this patient population.”

Dr. Rosato and her team hypothesized that TLV might be a promising treatment option for CF-patient-derived MRSA and MSSA infections, as in vitro studies have shown that TLV has activity against MRSA.

To prove this, the investigators screened a total of 333 strains of CF patient-derived S aureus of the wild-type or small-colony-variant phenotype, collected from both adults and children at 3 different cystic fibrosis centers: Houston Methodist Research Institute, UW Health and the Center for Global Infectious Disease Research. TLV was found to display activity against all 333 strains collected.

When testing the activity of the drug against 23 MRSA strains, the investigators observed intermediate resistance to ceftaroline (CPT)—a new beta-lactam antibiotic that targets PBP 2a in MRSA—in 20 of the strains, and high-level resistance to CPT in 3 of the strains. The authors note that although high levels of resistance to CPT is rare, intermediate resistance is more common in patients who have chronic infections.

“Among all strains, the TLV MIC90 was 0.06 mg/liter, i.e. 8-fold lower than the daptomycin (DAP) and CPT MIC90 and 25-fold lower than the linezolid (LZD) and vancomycin (VAN) MIC90,” the authors write.

Using time-kill experiments, the investigators assessed the in vitro effectiveness of TLV compared with DAP, VAN, and CPT. They found that TLV showed activity against all tested strains and displayed rapid bactericidal activity as well. The activity profile for the drug at a free serum concentration of 8 mg/liter showed that TLV performed better than VAN (16 mg/liter), LZD (10.4 mg/liter), and CPT (16 mg/liter).

The investigators also set out to determine the fate of mutation selection that could be projected by the potential prolonged use of TLV in patients with cystic fibrosis. To do this they looked at 3 specific strains: AMT 0114-48, WIS 664, and TMH 5007. They found that due to the ease of mutation selection which had been noted in control strains, TLV mutant resistance is independent of the CF patient background of the strains.

“We demonstrated that TLV has bactericidal activity against the S aureus strains tested, including those against which CPT and LZD displayed reduced activity, which might provide TLV a significant advantage over the drugs currently used to eradicate those strains and prevent future exacerbations,” the study authors write.

A clinical trial is currently underway to assess the pharmacokinetic profile of TLV in patients with cystic fibrosis, who usually need dose adjustment because of an increase in the volume of distribution and clearance.

“[The next step for our research is] to perform in-vivo analyses studies that could lead to translational application/clinical trial,” Dr. Rosato added. “However, we are limited in research funds to continue our investigations.”

Original article here.

Pushing Through the Fear – Guest Blog By Andrea Eisenman

By Andrea Eisenman

So many fears, where do I begin. Let’s start with my impending trip to Seattle from NYC. I like to travel but it gets complicated. How much room in my suitcase do I have to pack my myriad of machines and meds? And how much will I forget, despite my thorough list? I learned I had to put obvious things on my list like a hairbrush after I forgot that a few times. But when it is easily purchased at a drug store, no biggy. When it is my immune suppressants or a nebulizer, that is harder to replace.

I now have a lot more machinery to tote around when I leave home. I have my CPAP, my percussor and my inhalation machine and a facial steamer for my sinuses, plus my Neti pot for nasal lavage. These things become cumbersome and traveling light is not an option, I have to check my bag. So, planning is key for several days prior to take off. I am in that phase now. Packing it all. I bring enough meds for twice my travel time. My last trip to Seattle happened during 9/11. I could not fly home for a week. Luckily, I had an extra 10 days of medications to cover me.

My dad asked if I was up to the flight, it is a longer one than I have taken in many years. My answer is, I don’t know. I am fearful as I know I have lymphedema and even though I wear compression tights when I fly, it is less than comfy and I will swell in my upper body. I do have a compression machine for upper body swelling but it is way too big to bring. Will I be ok not using it for a few days? I am hoping the answer is yes. But because I do not know these things for certain, I have anxiety. And I worry I might get sick either from the flight or anytime during my trip. I do wear a mask in flight and try to stay as hydrated as possible in order to keep well. And of course, I will wipe down the area near my seat with cleaning wipes.

But in order to live a life, I have to take some risks. I had wanted to go to Seattle for a few years. It is therapeutic to get away once in a while and I had not traveled too far from home while my mom was alive. I wanted to be near enough if she needed me. I no longer have that worry. And maybe I used that as an excuse so I am now pushing myself to go on this trip. I know I can be resourceful and my doctors are only a phone call away if I get sick. There is a great CF center there and my friend is sensitive to my CF needs. When we were in college together she gave my CPT when I let her.

I find that when I push myself beyond my fears, I feel triumphant and am happy that I conquered them. Sometimes one has to get out of their comfort zone, even if it means wearing horribly tight pantyhose for six hours on a flight! I know it will be worth it and I can bond with my friend. I will feel like I accomplished something worthwhile. Maybe my next trip will be to Europe.

Cystic Fibrosis Podcast 195 Summiting Mount Everest and Denali with Nick Talbot

In the latest CF Podcast, Nick Talbot shares his incredibly unique journey with cystic fibrosis. From being diagnosed at the age of 13 to his latest climb – a trek up Denali, the highest point in North America – he constantly challenges himself to reach for his dreams. Nick stresses the importance of pushing one’s own personal limits and never being scared to fail – because failure simply means you tried.
Tune in to learn more about Nick and his cystic fibrosis story.

This video podcast was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Novartis to the Boomer Esiason Foundation.

Apply Now for Our LMK Scholarship! Due October 15th

CF Roundtable offers the Lauren Melissa Kelly (LMK) Scholarship award each semester, in honor of Lauren Melissa Kelly. The academic scholarships of up to $2500 are awarded to adults with cystic fibrosis who are pursuing career certifications, associates, and bachelor and graduate degrees. Spring 2019 applications due on October 15th, 2018. 

Nancy Wech, Lauren’s mother, established this scholarship in Lauren’s name and memory. In Nancy’s own words:

Lauren Melissa Kelly was an extraordinary woman. Laughing, gregarious, spontaneous, fun, talkative, driven, thoughtful, smart, kind and loving — all descriptive terms for Lauren, who lost her battle with CF late in her senior year at the University of Georgia. In 1992, Lauren was chosen as one of ten Senior Leaders at University of Georgia. She had distinguished herself as a member of the Golden Key Honor Society, Mortar Board, Phi Upsilon Omicron, Gamma Beta Phi, the Tate Society and Delta Gamma sorority.

Lauren felt the most significant opportunities of her college career included participation in the reconstruction and formation of organizations, which will serve the university in the future. She acted as one of the re-founding members of the Phi Kappa Literary Society and was significant in the metamorphosis of the Z Club into the William Tate Society. Her other activities included Greeks Advocating Mature Management of Alcohol (GAMMA) in which she served as Secretary and Special Events Chair. She was also a member of the Women’s Glee Club for more than two years.

In recognition of her academic performance, Lauren’s degree of Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences was awarded posthumously. At the time of her death, Lauren was engaged to be married and living off campus in an apartment. She lived life to the fullest!

Walt Disney said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. It’s not the days in life you remember, it’s the moments.” As Lauren’s mother stated, “I smile because she happened to me. Now, I want you to smile because she has happened to you.”

Please visit our website for application and full scholarship criteria and details. http://www.cfroundtable.com/community-outreach/united-states-adult-cystic-fibrosis-association-scholarship/

Send any questions to scholarships@usacfa.org.