You can feel her excitement surge when Dr. Hengameh Raissy talks about asthma research in kids. After all, asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease in the U.S. and New Mexico has a prevalence rate of 8.6 percent with a profound regional disparity.
Raissy, a research associate professor in pediatrics, has been driving UNM's active node in the Childhood Asthma Research and Education Network (CARE network) as the principal investigator for the past four years, serving as a center to national research program.
Established in 1999 by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the CARE network is comprised of five clinical centers and a data coordinating center established to evaluate treatments for children with asthma.
The network, which conducts numerous pediatric asthma investigations, uses a steering committee to select topics for investigation, establish protocols, and generally assure the integrity and timeliness of study results to the scientific and health care communities. Once a protocol has been approved, patients are recruited, enrolled and monitored at five clinical centers.
Raissy's work is supported by UNM's Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) with expert nursing and nutrition support, as well as space and specialized instrumentation.
"We have several different asthma research projects going on right now," she offers, "including NIH-funded clinical trials, as well as pharmaceutical sponsored trials investigating new medications and treatment approaches in the pediatric population."
But it's the longer-term clinical trials that pull her closer to the edge of her seat. "We're one of the sites in Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) that began on 1995," Raissy continues. "It's the largest and longest asthma study ever, with 1,000 participants and 85-percent participant retention since 1995. All the kids are now adults, so we're submitting a grant proposal to NIH for another four-year cycle to understand the lung growth and development in the cohort who were diagnosed with asthma as a child."
"I really enjoy the longitudinal studies," she adds. "They really present answers, like long-term steroid use as a child leaves one shorter as an adult; and sometimes more questions. We interview participants about their environment – things like pets, wood stoves, pollens, allergies – to yield a more comprehensive picture. These are incredibly innovative asthma management research projects."
Raissy is now the principal investigator for the AsthmaNet at UNM. AsthmaNet is a clinical research network funded by NIH to promote cooperation and coordination, facilitate scientific exchange, provide training opportunities and leverage resources.