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Canadian Respiratory Journal
Volume 20, Issue 3, Pages 180-182
Focused Review

Biomarkers in Airway Diseases

Janice M Leung1 and Don D Sin2,3

1Critical Care Medicine Department, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
2UBC James Hogg Research Centre, St Paul’s Hospital, Canada
3Division of Respiratory Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Copyright © 2013 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The inherent limitations of spirometry and clinical history have prompted clinicians and scientists to search for surrogate markers of airway diseases. Although few biomarkers have been widely accepted into the clinical armamentarium, the authors explore three sources of biomarkers that have shown promise as indicators of disease severity and treatment response. In asthma, exhaled nitric oxide measurements can predict steroid responsiveness and sputum eosinophil counts have been used to titrate anti-inflammatory therapies. In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, inflammatory plasma biomarkers, such as fibrinogen, club cell secretory protein-16 and surfactant protein D, can denote greater severity and predict the risk of exacerbations. While the multitude of disease phenotypes in respiratory medicine make biomarker development especially challenging, these three may soon play key roles in the diagnosis and management of airway diseases.