Katie Borg
Respiratory research nurse at the Nuffield Department of Medicine Respiratory at the University of Oxford

When people think of serious illnesses, often things like cancer and heart disease spring to mind.

What is often not realised is how debilitating and severe diseases of the lungs can be.

At the Nuffield Department of Medicine Respiratory Research group, we are trying to find cures and improve the lives of people who suffer from two of the most common of these: asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Asthma affects 5.4 million people in the UK, and three die per day from it. It is often thought that asthma is a disease of childhood, but in fact a person can develop it at any time of life.

It can have an enormous impact on everyday life and sometimes be life threatening.

There is little more terrifying than the sensation of not being able to breathe, yet despite this, asthma is often under-recognised for the problems it can cause to those who suffer from it.

Our group is led by Professor Ian Pavord, who is at the forefront of developing new treatments for this disease to help give our patients a better quality of life.

Unlike asthma, many people have never heard of COPD. This is a term which describes irreversible diseases of the airway, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

It is strange that COPD is not better known about, as it is currently the fourth leading cause of death in the world.

Sufferers of COPD experience breathlessness, frequent coughing up of phlegm and the sensation of having a very tight chest; many people experience this every day of their lives.

Some people will go on to require prescribed oxygen and other interventions to help ease their symptoms.

In our group, we are lucky to be led by Dr Mona Bafadhel, who is dedicated to finding ways to ease the awful symptoms of COPD and discover the best treatments.

Asthma and COPD are complex illnesses, with lots of different underlying causes in different people.

We take an individualised approach to patient care and are trying to understand how we can tailor treatment to each person’s specific needs.

We have discovered simple methods to identify patients who will respond best to our current treatments and are currently testing these in clinical trials.

We cannot do any of our research without the help of the wonderful volunteers who are willing to participate in our studies.

We always need more help, so if you are willing to be a control in one of our studies we’d love to hear from you, whether you have asthma or COPD or not.

There are lots of studies going on in our department, from one-off visits to longer commitments involving new medications.

You are the future of improving lives for those living with lung diseases, so if you feel you can, please get in touch.

Call Katie Borg on 01865 612928 or email catherine.borg@ndm.ox.ac.uk.