Dr. Don Sin, Canada Research Chair in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Head, Division of Respiratory Medicine, Providence Health Care, was recently ranked as the second leading COPD expert in the world by Expertscape.com, a medical search and ranking website that ranks physicians, clinicians and researchers worldwide using a PubMed-based algorithm.
Dr. Sin's research interests include finding new solutions to reduce the growing burden of COPD in Canada by discovering a simple blood test to diagnose acute lung attacks early in their course and new therapies to treat COPD-related co-morbidities such as cardiovascular disease.
Q & A with Dr. Sin:
What do you see as the leading challenges in COPD research?
COPD is a heterogeneous disease with many different "faces." It is unlikely that we will find one solution that fits all. Our biggest challenge is unraveling these different faces of COPD and understanding their molecular mechanisms. Then, we will be able to design new biomarkers and new therapies to reduce the growing burden of COPD in Canada and elsewhere.
In your opinion, what has been one of the most influential discoveries in COPD research?
We have discovered that bronchodilators are effective and safe therapies to improve lung function, reduce symptoms and lower the risk of exacerbations in COPD patients. We have also discovered that COPD is a risk factor (i.e. gateway) for other common diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. Thus, the overall human impact of COPD is enormous.
What are questions we must answer to help us better understand this disease?
We need to find out how many different faces of COPD exist and are relevant for patient outcomes. This will enable breakthroughs in new biomarker and therapeutic discoveries that can make a difference to patient care. We also need to understand the molecular drivers of COPD (and its different phenotypes) and design appropriate therapeutic trials to treat or even reverse the phenotypes.
What do you see as the future directions of COPD research?
COPD research will continue to grow in size and scope. It is clear that small, one-lab research programs will not be adequate to address the important questions in COPD. Furthermore, the traditional "silos' of research in COPD will become increasingly obsolete. Researchers from all 4 CIHR pillars (basic biomedical, clinical, health services and population health) will work in large projects that will be truly translational and impactful on patient care. To this end, the recently formed Canadian Respiratory Research Network and the Genome Canada COPD Biomarker Projects are examples of what the future will look like in COPD research.