Purpose of review
In this article, we summarize and discuss the most recent literature on personalized medicine in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic progressive and almost invariably lethal disease of unknown cause. This review is timely as major advances in our understanding of disease pathobiology and improvements in molecular techniques have recently led to the identification of potential surrogates of diagnosis, prognosis and response to treatment.
The most promising and advanced candidate biomarkers are presented based on their proposed mechanistic pathways (e.g. alveolar epithelial cell dysfunction, immune dysregulation, microbiome, extracellular matrix remodeling and fibroproliferation, epigenetic markers and metabolomics). Recent data suggest that components of the immune system may contribute to the development of IPF. A potential role for infections as a cofactor in disease development and progression or as a trigger in disease exacerbation has also recently been proposed.
Clinical management of IPF is unsatisfactory because of limited availability of truly effective therapies, lack of accurate predictors of disease behavior and absence of simple short-term measures of therapeutic response. A number of putative biomarkers have been identified in patients with IPF, although none has been validated to the standard necessary for their use in either therapeutic trials or clinical practice. Currently, ongoing prospective longitudinal studies will hopefully permit such validation.