Biomarkers in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

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Purpose of review

This review examines the recent literature on molecular biomarkers of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Specific attention is dedicated to the recent studies that identified the genes associated with IPF and the peripheral blood biomarkers that predict outcome in IPF.

Recent findings

Multiple studies attempted to identify diagnostic and predictive biomarkers in IPF. Until recently, these studies were limited in size and lacked replication, but still when taken together provided convincing evidence that changes in blood proteins (KL-6, SP-A, MMP-7, CCL-18, among others) or cells (fibrocytes and T-cell subpopulations) are indicative of the disease presence and outcome. More recently, larger studies have identified gene polymorphisms associated with IPF, as well as protein markers and integrated clinical and molecular prediction rules that accurately predict outcome in patients with IPF.


The peripheral blood contains disease presence and outcome relevant information, and suggests distinct biologically defined outcome trajectories in patients with IPF. Although recently identified biomarkers should still be validated in multiple clinical contexts, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that collection of peripheral blood biomarkers needs to be incorporated in the design of drug studies and that some of these markers be clinically evaluated in lung transplant prioritization.

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