According to a study results, early mortality in the first year after diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) can be predicted by serum surfactant protein A which is a protein that is generated in the lungs and finds its way into the peripheral circulation when the lung is injured.

We found that this protein was more useful in predicting outcome than age, pulmonary function tests, or other conventional clinical markers of disease, told Dr. Brent W. Kinder, director of the University of Cincinnati Interstitial Lung Disease Center.

Dr. Kinder and team evaluated 82 patients with surgical lung biopsy-proven IPF to find the associations between serum surfactant protein (SP)-A and SP-D concentrations and mortality.

They found that after controlling for known clinical predictors of mortality, each increase of 49 ng/mL (1 SD) in baseline SP-A level (at diagnosis) was linked to a 3.3-fold increased risk of death within the first 12 months after presentation (adjusted hazard ratio, 3.27; p = 0.003). SP-D concentrations and mortality (adjusted HR, 2.04; p = 0.053) had no statistically significant association.

We were not completely surprised by the findings, Dr. Kinder said; however, we were surprised at the magnitude of the association when compared to other clinical factors. The team found that a 1-year mortality prediction model containing SP-A and SP-D was substantially superior to a model with clinical predictors alone.

The researchers reported that increased serum SP-A concentrations helps identify a subset of patients with more active disease that increases the risk of early death and is not predicted by other baseline clinical predictors, such as lung function test results.

It will allow us to come to a decision about how or if to treat the IPF patient and get them enrolled in clinical trials immediately, Dr. Kinder noted in a university-issued statement. In severe cases, it can help in scheduling a lung transplant at the most optimal time for the patient.