Australian research into devastating lung disease

Australian researchers are recruiting volunteers aged 40+ living with severe emphysema for their study of a new two-stage procedure for the devastating lung disease, by October 2022.

The COVE Study is investigating the safety and effectiveness of a first-in-human procedure for those living with severe emphysema, who have ‘collateral ventilation’ – air flow between lobes of the lung which bypasses the normal airways.

The COVE Study aims to fulfill an unmet need for treatment options for those living with severe emphysema.

Severe emphysema is a progressive form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), with one in seven Australians over the age of 40 years living with some form of COPD.

Emphysema develops gradually and is among Australia’s leading causes of death. It causes damage to the air sacs of the lungs, destroying their natural elasticity. As severe emphysema advances, and symptoms worsen, those affected may find daily activities, such as standard exercise, hanging out the washing, food shopping, getting out of bed, and even sleeping, increasingly difficult.

“If you’re aged 40 years or over, and have been diagnosed with severe, or very severe emphysema, ask your GP or specialist whether you qualify for the COVE Study,” said COVE Study Co-Investigator, Director of Surgical Oncology, and Consultant Thoracic Surgeon, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and East Melbourne Heart and Lung, A/Prof Gavin Wright, Melbourne.

According to a just published article in Medical Journal of Australia’s (MJAs) InSight+, authored by COVE Study Lead Investigator, and Consultant Thoracic Surgeon at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, and East Melbourne Heart and Lung, Dr Naveed Alam, Melbourne, exploring new treatments is critical to improving the lives of those with emphysema.

“Without proper management and treatment, emphysema can cause difficulties breathing and talking, a blue tinge to the skin due to lack of oxygen, regular chest infections and may even cause heart failure.

“These symptoms can affect a patient’s physical and emotional wellbeing, with up to one in three Australians living with emphysema reporting some level of disability due to the lung disease,” said Dr Alam.

“Moreover, those affected are four times more likely to experience very high levels of psychological distress than those without emphysema, with breathlessness, or the fear of breathlessness, commonly causing anxiety and depression.

“Given the limited treatment options currently available to people with severe emphysema, particularly those with collateral ventilation, we hope to address this unmet need by investigating a novel treatment option through the COVE Study,” Dr Alam said.

Wife, grandmother-to-seven and COVE Study participant, Cecilia, Melbourne, was diagnosed with emphysema almost 30 years ago.

“Living with severe emphysema is physically and mentally debilitating.

“Not being able to breathe is terrifying. There have been times when I’ve been so afraid of being breathless, that I have been too scared to move. It’s also demoralising being unable to look after myself,” Cecilia said.

Cecilia has chosen to participate in emphysema clinical studies to help inform additional treatment options for the disease. 

“Nothing in life is guaranteed. But participating in a clinical study may help both myself, and others living with this devastating disease,” said Cecilia.

Although there is currently no cure for emphysema, effective treatment and management may slow the disease down, extend the number of years a person is expected to live, and manage symptoms, to help improve their quality of life.

Today, A/Prof Wright to urges all Australians living with emphysema to enroll in the clinical study for the disease, should they be eligible.

To learn more about severe emphysema or register interest in the COVE Study head to, or email

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