Happy International Women’s Day from Cystic Fibrosis Canada! In honour of International Women’s Day, we would like to spotlight research taking place by Cystic Fibrosis Canada-funded Dr. Neil Sweezey at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto aimed at improving clinical outcomes for females with cystic fibrosis (CF). Currently, females with CF get sicker sooner and experience earlier mortality. Dr. Sweezey was awarded a $372,925 grant over three years, from 2015-2018, to study this gap between females and males. Understanding the gap is the first step towards improving clinical outcomes for females with CF.
Currently, no one knows why this gap exists between females and males with CF; however, estrogen seems to be involved, with higher levels of estrogen being linked to more lung infection flare-ups. Although the reasons for the link between estrogen and lung infections are not known, it may be related to estrogen’s effects on white blood cells. Two kinds of white blood cells, called T cells and neutrophils, signal each other and produce substances that stimulate CF airway inflammation. Estrogen seems to increase the production of these substances in the airways of people with CF. Chronic oral steroid use to treat these lung infection flare-ups causes intolerable long-term side effects. Dr. Sweezey’s team is seeking to determine which currently available drugs could be used to reduce the inflammation without causing bad side effects. This work seeks to improve outcomes for females with CF.