Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases worldwide. There is a large inter-individual variability in response to asthma treatment. Most patients respond well to standard therapy; however, a small proportion of the patients remain symptomatic despite treatment with high dosages of corticosteroids. Uncontrolled asthma leads to a decreased quality of life. Therefore, it is important to identify individuals who will respond poorly to standard asthma medication, especially to standard maintenance therapy with inhaled corticosteroids, at an early stage. Response to anti-inflammatory therapy is generally monitored by the assessment of clinical symptoms, which only partially correlates with underlying airway inflammation. The identification of specific inflammatory biomarkers might help to guide treatment or predict a corticosteroid response more accurately. Some inflammatory biomarkers are already finding their way into clinical practice (e.g. fraction of nitric oxide in exhaled breath), whereas others are predominantly used as a research tool (e.g. profiles of volatile organic compounds). Currently, there is no inflammatory biomarker used in routine clinical practice to predict a corticosteroid response. More knowledge on the underlying biological mechanism(s) of heterogeneous therapeutic responses could help to identify novel biomarkers. This review will focus on inflammatory patterns and genetic variations that may underlie differences in treatment response in patients with asthma, and will provide an overview of inflammatory biomarkers that could potentially serve as response predictors.
Cite this as: S. J. H. Vijverberg, L. Koenderman, E. S. Koster, C. K. van der Ent, J. A. M. Raaijmakers and A.-H. Maitland-van der Zee, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2011 (41) 615–629.