Cystic Fibrosis “Breakthrough” Offers New Hope

Peters facebook



Those words from two-and-a-half-years-ago comprised the last Facebook post from my first cousin once removed.  Peter Leatherman, the son of my cousin, Tom, from the Columbus, Ohio area, died just over a year later from cystic fibrosis.  I’m thinking about him today as I read the news about a so-called breakthrough in the battle against cystic fibrosis, a genetic lung disease that cruelly takes young lives just as those lives are entering the full flowering of adulthood.

More on Peter in a moment.  The medical news, published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is that a combination of two drugs is showing major promise toward improving the health, and perhaps the life spans, of people suffering with the most common form of cystic fibrosis.  The controlled trials included more than a thousand people with the disease, age 12 and older, who were treated for six months.  “This is the beginning of effective therapy for cystic fibrosis associated with the most common mutant form of CFTR,” wrote Dr. Pamela Davis, dean of the school of medicine at Case Western University, in an editorial accompanying the findings.

Cystic fibrosis leads the body to overproduce thick mucus that leads to chronic lung infections.  There’s no cure, but recent advances in treatment have meant that people with the disease can live longer, more normal lives than just a few decades ago.  Having said that, it’s still a slow motion death sentence.  The median predicted life expectancy is 37-years in the U.S., but much lower in less developed nations.  A final decision on the new drug cocktail by the Food and Drug Administration is expected in July, but an advisory panel has already recommended passage by a 12-to-1 vote.

My cousin’s life could be a case study of how CF robs the world of well-lived and worthy lives; despite a diagnosis sufferers are literally born with, Peter never gave in.  He was the valedictorian of his Worthington, Ohio high school class; he got his college degree from Ohio State, and was pursuing a master’s degree in chemical engineering when his condition worsened to the point that the lung transplant was attempted.  But there were complications, and after fighting for year, he died at the age of 26.  His family was, and is, heartbroken.

I’m sure they’ll hear today’s news and feel hope; not for their son anymore, but for the 14-thousand other Americans still battling that form of CF.  Just like my wife and I have experienced with autism, it’s hard to buck up when the words “no cure” hang forever over your heads.  You can only count on science and research moving forward, so “forever” one day leaves the equation.


WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s