Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Bradley Quon
JUNE 23, 2022
Dr. Bradley Quon is an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia and Adult CF program research director at St. Paul’s Hospital who has recently been funded by Cystic Fibrosis Canada for his research study, Inflammatory and immune biomarkers of response to elexacaftor/tezacaftor/ivacaftor in people with CF. He was recently named the Robbie Award Winner for Most Promising New Research Project, which is given to the new research project that receives the highest score by our scientific reviewers.
Dr. Quon’s team has collected samples from people with cystic fibrosis to study the changes in inflammation and immunity after starting Trikafta. With hopes to determine the real-world effects in an observational study, the results will show the effect of Trikafta on exacerbation events, explain why some people respond better to Trikafta compared to others, and will show how Trikafta affects gut inflammation and symptoms. The findings of Dr. Quon’s research study will ultimately lead to improved understanding of the impact of Trikafta on outcomes for people living with cystic fibrosis.
Dr. Quon’s work has been funded by CF Canada for many years, and he continues to make an impact with his research for cystic fibrosis.
Read more below about our interview with Dr. Quon discussing his research project and involvement with Cystic Fibrosis Canada.
How did you become involved in CF research and what do you enjoy most about your work?
I was first introduced to CF research as an undergraduate co-op student. At that time, I was working in a lab focused on the development of rat models of chronic Pseudomonas infection to test inhaled antibiotics. I never imagined that my training would come full circle and that I would become so interested in CF clinical care and research. When I started working in CF clinical care, there were a lot of unknown questions about cystic fibrosis, that inspired me to try and understand more about the disease through research. The most enjoyable part of my work is interacting with patients and colleagues across the CF research community. It has been a real privilege to be involved in research and clinical trials that are making such a difference to the patients I serve.
Why do you think individuals even with the same mutation often respond differently to Trikafta?
The effects of the CFTR mutation only account for a proportion of disease expression within the lungs. You can take a hundred patients with the same genetics in terms of the CFTR mutation and get very different lung functions, which demonstrates the influence of the environment and other genetic factors. So, if you’re going to start using Trikafta, you may expect variable responses as well because the CFTR mutation is not solely responsible for the disease. In addition, there may be other aspects that we don’t know about yet, such as differences in how people metabolize Trikafta which may have an impact on their levels within their system. There is still a lot to be learned.
How will your research be beneficial for people living with CF?
We have already seen dramatic clinical benefits of Trikafta in our patient population. Through this study, we will gain a better understanding of why some patients benefit more than others following Trikafta and whether the effect on inflammation will help explain some of these differences.
Clinical trials showed patients generally have a good response to Trikafta. Why are we seeing such diverse responses now?
Clinical trials are done in a highly selected patient population, so they don’t necessarily represent the wide variation of patients that we see in clinics. Clinical trials tend to involve the most adherent patients with respect to their therapies. We are recognizing that a lot of patients are stopping other standard of care therapies after starting Trikafta and those therapies could have an impact on the benefit of Trikafta so it’s important to do these studies to determine the true effects in the real world.
What do you see changing over the next 5 to 10 years for those with cystic fibrosis?
As we move to starting CFTR modulators at a younger age, we are hoping that a lot of the complications associated with lung and pancreatic disease can be prevented. In those with already established lung and pancreatic disease, CFTR modulators will decrease the risk of progression and allow people with CF to live healthier and more fulfilling lives. We are going to see an aging of the CF population, which is a good thing but we must be mindful that this will come with increased complexity of the disease. In the past, we have been worried about issues like malnutrition. Now, we must shift our focus to ensuring patients don’t become overweight or develop other preventable conditions that are associated with age such as cardiovascular disease.
We also don’t want to forget about those people who don’t currently have access to CFTR modulators. This has become a major focus for our clinical trials network, CF CanACT. We are doing the background work now to prepare for future gene therapy trials for these individuals. This is going to be a major challenge that our research community will face within the next 5 to 10 years, but it is an exciting challenge that lots of CF researchers are already preparing to tackle.
Congratulations on being the Robbie Award Winner for Most Promising New Research Project. This award is presented to the new research project that receives the highest score by our scientific reviewers. How is this award significant to you and your study?
It is a tremendous honour for my scientific proposal to be acknowledged in this way. I have always held the Robbie Award Winner in high regards over the years. However, I can’t take all the credit as I am representing a dedicated and skilled team of researchers across Canada who will be working on this project with me. It will be a real team effort and I am excited to get started. https://trialfinder.cysticfibrosis.ca/details?ctid=690
The Robbie has been a strong supporter of Cystic Fibrosis Canada and we are grateful for their contributions to our research community as part of the Robbie Award received by Dr. Quon. The Robbie has two upcoming events: the Robbie Festival on June 25 & 26th as well as the Robbie Tournament on July 1st to July 3rd. Learn more about The Robbie on their website; https://therobbie.ca/