School of Health Sciences researcher Dr Sukhwinder Sohal (Romy) has been recognised by the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ), for his work in lung disease investigations.
Dr Sohal received the TSANZ Boehringer Ingelheim COPD Research Award 2018 for his research surrounding the process of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition in the airways of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“In this process, the airway lining or epithelium is reprogrammed by smoking to do some very lethal damage such as scarring and narrowing of the airways but also promotes malignant change (cancer),” Dr Sohal said.
“The research found that the process leads to small airway fibrosis and destruction and may be the link between that damage in smokers and the formation of lung cancer.”
“We are also currently investigating this process in idiopathic pulmonary disease (IPF), which is another highly destructive disease of the lungs.”
Dr Sohal, who has been investigating Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition in the airways of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for the past 14 years, said he was honoured to receive the award.
”It is a great honour being recognised for this research,” he said.
“This award truly shows the translational nature of research conducted in Launceston and at the University for Tasmania.”
Dr Sohal said the $30,000 award would be used to support the pre-clinical stage of his research which will look at what the key drivers that promote these pathological changes in the lungs and what therapy can be applied.
“We have found the mechanism and we do know that it is responsive to current therapeutics in at least 50 per cent of the cases,” he said.
“However, current medications (steroids) are reserved for more severe form of COPD, so there is an essential need to find new therapies, which can be given early in the disease and are safer for long-term use.”
“Seventy per cent of lung cancer occurs in early COPD.”
“We now wish to tease out the key drivers of these changes, what aspects can be addressed with current therapy and what are the new therapeutic requirements.”
Dr Sohal said he was thankful for the support for his research he had received from the University’s School of Health Sciences, Clifford Craig Foundation, Respiratory Clinicians and Pathology Scientists at Launceston General Hospital and the Tasmanian community.