Scientific Research

Immune Checkpoint Ligand PD-L1 is upregulated in Pulmonary LAM

August 2018

Read the publication here

The efficacy and safety of low-dose sirolimus for treatment of lymphangioleiomyomatosis

August 2013 

Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a rare disease caused by dysregulated activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Sirolimus, an inhibitor of mTOR, has been reported to decrease the size of angiomyolipomas and stabilize pulmonary function in patients with LAM. However, the optimal dose for the treatment of LAM remains unclear. 

We conducted a retrospective, observational study of 15 patients with LAM who underwent sirolimus therapy for more than 6 months. The efficacy was evaluated by reviewing the patients’ clinical courses, pulmonary function and chest radiologic findings before and after the initiation of sirolimus treatment. 

All patients had blood trough levels of sirolimus lower than 5ng/mL. Sirolimus treatment improved the annual rates of change in FVC and FEV1 in the 9 patients who were free from chylous effusion (FVC, ?101.0 vs. +190.0mL/y, p=0.046 and FEV1, ?115.4 vs. +127.8mL/y, p=0.015). The remaining 7 patients had chylous effusion at the start of sirolimus treatment; the chylothorax resolved completely within 1?5 months of treatment in 6 of these cases. These results resembled those of previous studies in which blood trough levels of sirolimus ranged from 5 to 15ng/mL. 

Low-dose sirolimus (trough level, 5ng/mL or less) performed as well as the higher doses used previously for improving pulmonary function and decreasing chylous effusion in patients with LAM. 
Ando K, et al. The ef?cacy and safety of low-dose sirolimus for treatment of lymphangioleiomyomatosis. Respiratory Investigation (2013)

> Click here to view this paper.

Stunning Breakthrough from TSC and LAM Research!

February 2013

LAM Foundation-funded scientists, Drs. Issam Ben-Sahra and Brendan Manning, today reported in the Science journal that mTOR, the cellular growth switch that is stuck ‘on’ in LAM, also directly controls the synthesis of nucleotides, the building blocks for RNA and DNA. This newly-discovered mTOR function explains how cells are able to create the additional genetic material required for cellular replication and tumor growth. This finding joins the ranks of ‘classic principles in biology’, one of several that have emerged from the study of TSC and LAM, and will suggest new targets for the treatment of LAM, TSC, and other neoplastic and cancerous processes.

The LAM Foundation congratulates Drs. Ben-Sahra and Manning for this remarkable discovery. This work was funded in part by a LAM Foundation Fellowship Award to Dr. Ben-Sahra. Dr. Manning is a member of The LAM Foundation Scientific Board.

Clinical paper published holds exciting news for LAM patients

3 October 2012

Publication of the collaboration between Professor Merv Merrilees of the University of Auckland and Professor Vera Krymskaya et al of the University of Pennsylvania.

The LAM Trust is proud to announce publication in the prestigious Science Translational Medicine of the paper titled “Model of Pulmonary Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM): Prevention of Alveolar Destruction and Airspace Enlargement in a Mouse“.

This collaboration and publication of this research heralds new and exciting opportunities for clinical trials in LAM patients.

> Click here to read this paper

Self-Renewal Properties of LAM cells

Final Research Report for the LAM Trust of NZ – JW Baty and M Berridge, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research

July 2012

LAM cells invade lung tissue forming nodules and causing cystic destruction and remodeling of the lung interstitium as well as obstructing airways and pulmonary lymphatics, and leading to the development of cystic structures…

> read full document

Use of variability in national and regional data to estimate the prevalence of lymphangioleiomyomatosis

Q J Med
Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association of Physicians.

> open document

Room to Breathe

North South magazine
August 2011

For a small group of New Zealand women with a rare but fatal lung condition, Mervyn Merrilees’ pioneering research on heart disease offers an unexpected glimmer of hope.

Day by day, Imeleta Maddox’s lungs are running out of space. You can almost feel the effort of each laboured breath – the fight to draw in air and the suffocating sensation of never quite getting enough.

> read full article

MILES Trial Results Published

The LAM Foundation, USA
16 March 2011

The LAM Foundation is extremely pleased and proud to share some outstanding news. The MILES Trial final analysis has taken place and the trial results are reported in today’s on-line version of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). In addition to the trial results, the NEJM also published an editorial which highlights the trial and the role of The LAM Foundation in research advancements

The MILES Trial was the first randomized, controlled study designed to develop a therapy for LAM. The primary endpoint was met. Treatment with sirolimus, also known as rapamycin, for one year resulted in a small but significant improvement in FEV1. Frank McCormack, MD, Director of the Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine Division at the University of Cincinnati, was the lead investigator on the study. Dr. McCormack also serves as the Scientific Director of The LAM Foundation, which played an integral role in the success of the trial. In addition to providing supplemental funding, which covered the costs of data monitoring and patient travel reimbursement, the Foundation worked together with the investigators on the education and recruitment of LAM patients.

The LAM Foundation would like to take this opportunity to thank the LAM patients in the United States, Japan and Canada who were involved in the MILES Trial. Because of their hope for a treatment and ultimately a cure, they chose to become involved. Trials are not for everyone for a variety of reasons, but for the 111 LAM patients who consented, and the 89 who completed this trial, all LAM patients and their families thank you. Without your courage, a treatment would have been missed. Our gratitude is extended to the generous sponsors who provided the funding. The LAM Foundation would also like to thank Dr. McCormack and all of the professionals and institutions involved in the MILES Trial.

Please click here to go to The LAM Foundation’s website for the links to the full New England Journal of Medicine article, the editorial, a press release from the University of Cincinnati and also FAQs about the Trial results.

New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) Publishes MILES Trial Results

The Power of Patient and Family Pays Off

16 March 2011
New England Journal of Medicine

There are an estimated five women per million in the United States who suffer from lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare and devastating disease that almost exclusively strikes young women.1-3 These patients have progressive loss of lung function, and many die from respiratory failure. Until recently, a diagnosis of LAM was a medical anomaly, and a woman who received this diagnosis had little cause for hope. The disease was likely to be managed symptomatically by physicians unfamiliar with the disease. > read more

New LAM Research

November 2009

A contract has been signed and work begins this month at the Malaghan Institute for Medical Research in Wellington.

The Agreement to fund a one year pilot programme of new LAM Research is between the Malaghan Institute’s Cancer Cell and Molecular Biology Group and The New Zealand LAM Trust in collaboration with LAM Australasia Research Alliance (LARA).

Malagan's Dr James Baty & Prof Mike Berridge
Malaghan’s Dr James Baty & Professor Mike Berridge

The Wellington based work which is part of a proposed three year study will be undertaken by Professor Mike Berridge and his team at the Institute, in collaboration with Dr Lyn Moir from Professor Judy Black’s lab at the University of Sydney.

The Project will investigate the cancer-like properties of LAM cells; in particular, whether LAM cells can grow in culture, under conditions that support the growth of self-renewing cancer cells. The team will investigate whether LAM cells grown in these conditions, express self renewal genes typical of cancer stem cells.This work is designed to be part of a larger study that will explore the feasibility of treating LAM, using the immunological therapies currently being developed for treating cancer.

Both the Australian and New Zealand LAM patient organisations which have raised the money for this project wish to thank supporters for their donations that have made this work possible and we wish the research teams well in the first year of this exciting programme.

Feasibility of Immunotherapy for Lymphangioleiomyomatosis
published in The American Journal of Pathology

November 2009
From the Department of Pathology and the Cancer Research Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii

LAM strikes women during their reproductive years and leaves patients with a much reduced life expectancy at diagnosis. Patients with LAM present with recurrent pneumothoraces, hemoptysis, pleural effusions, and dyspnea on exertion. There is no truly effective treatment available beyond lung transplantation. LAM is definitively diagnosed by detecting expression of the glycoprotein recognized by the antibody HMB45. Differential diagnosis is otherwise difficult, and patients with sporadic LAM typically remain undiagnosed for several years. > more

Melanoma–Associated Antigen Expression in Lymphangioleiomyomatosis Renders Tumor Cells Susceptible to Cytotoxic T Cells

Published in The American Journal of Pathology
November 2009
From the Departments of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology/Oncology Institute,* and Department of Surgery,† Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois; Illinois Math and Science Academy,‡ Aurora, Illinois; Department of Medicine,§ Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois; Department of Surgery,¶ University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Department of Dermatology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio; and Department of Surgery,** Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina

Following the identification of underlying mutations responsible for the symptoms incurred in LAM and intracellular signaling pathways affected by TSC1/TSC2 through the mammalian target of rapamycin complex, proposed disease treatments have been aimed at the hyperproliferative responses observed in mutant cells. The mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor rapamycin has been tested in phase 1 trials with mixed results. > more

Molecular Pathogenisis of LAM

Published in American Journal of Respiratory, Cell and Molecular Biology
December 2007

Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a rare progressive cystic lung disease affecting young women. The pivotal observation that LAM occurs both spontaneously and as part of the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) led to the hypothesis that these disorders share common genetic and pathogenetic mechanisms. In this review we describe the evolution of our understanding of the molecular and cellular basis of LAM and TSC, beginning with the discovery of the TSC1 and TSC2 genes and the demonstration of their involvement in sporadic (non-TSC) LAM. This was followed by rapid delineation of the signaling pathways in Drosophila melanogaster with confirmation in mice and humans. This knowledge served as the foundation for novel therapeutic approaches that are currently being used in human clinical trials. > more

Collaborative Programme of Scientific Investigation into LAM

As a result of three years of work by The New Zealand LAM Trust, the team of New Zealand and Australian researchers (pictured right) are working against the clock as part of an international collaborative effort to uncover answers to the causes of this rare and cruel disease.

Dr Lyn Moir began her work at The University of Pennsylvania in the lab of Dr Vera Krymskaya in June 2007. Dr Moir will return to The University of Sydney in 2008, and it is hoped that funds will be raised to enable her to continue her cell signalling work there.

A presentation abstract on the work completed in Philadelphia will be made at the American Thoracic Society’s annual meeting in Toronto in 2008 and at the Australasian Thoracic meeting in Melbourne in May 2008.


by Francis McCormack, MD

Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a rare, progressive, cystic lung disease that occurs almost exclusively in females, usually between menarche and menopause. The hallmarks of LAM are diffuse infiltration of the pulmonary parenchyma with atypical smooth muscle cells, airflow obstruction, pneumothorax and chylothorax, and progressive respiratory failure… > more

Australian Scientific Investigation

In June 2004 the prestigious UK Journal of Pathology published a Paper from Professor Mervyn J Merrilees, principal investigator,University of Auckland in conjunction with Professor Judith L. Black, University of Sydney. The paper is titled “Matrix Proteoglycans and remodelling of interstial lung tissue in Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM)”.

This Paper can be seen on line in Wylie InterScience ( and is published in J Pathol 2004; no 203: 653-660.

Currently, NZ LAM Trust funded LAM science investigation continues at the University of Auckland.

Professor Merrilees and his team’s recent studies (UK Journal of Path) have shown that LAM is characterised not only by the growth of defective smooth muscle cells, but also by significant amounts of interstitial tissue that contain normal fibroblasts and large amounts of space occupying matrix proteoglycans.

Of particular interest is the finding that areas rich in proteoglycans are depleted in elastic fibres which are essential to the proper functioning of the lung during breathing.

Prof Merrilees and the team have been working with the drug rapamycin which has been found to be a very effective inhibiter of cell migration.

Relationship Between LAM and Cancer

LAM Foundation Scientist Dr. Elizabeth Henske Responds to LAM Patients’ Questions About LAM and Cancer

Dr. Elizabeth (Lisa) Henske is a Tenured, Senior Member of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. She earned her undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Yale University, where she majored in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and her MD degree from Harvard Medical School. She completed her Residency in Internal Medicine and Fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, followed by Post-doctoral training in the laboratory of David Kwiatkowski at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is a member of the American Society of Clinical Invesgitation, on the Board of Directors of the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance, and Chairman of the NIH Study Section “Cellular and Molecular Biology of the Kidney.” Dr. Henske’s research is currently focused on the cellular mechanisms through which mutations in the TSC genes lead to tumor formation and LAM.

Is LAM a type of cancer? How is LAM similar to cancer? Will it spread to other organs?

LAM cells have several striking similarities to cancer cells. These similarities include the excess growth of LAM cells, activation of cellular pathways in LAM cells that are often also activated in cancer cells (including the mTOR pathway), and the hypothesis that LAM cells can spread or metastasize to the lung. However, under the microscope, LAM cells generally do not appear to be cancerous. Also, LAM does not behave like a typical cancer. In contrast to cancer, LAM does not usually spread to other organs, and LAM often progresses very slowly, over many years. Therefore, although LAM cells have similarities to cancer cells, whether LAM should be considered a form of cancer is controversial.

We’ve always been told in the past that LAM is NOT cancer. What has changed?

Each year, our knowledge about LAM increases significantly. Many of the most recent biochemical and cellular advances involve similarities between LAM and cancer.

Can LAM be treated with the same drugs that cancer is treated with?

It is very possible that some drugs used to treat cancer will also be useful in treating LAM. This is a very exciting and promising area of research. A relatively uncommon disease like LAM can benefit tremendously from drug development for common diseases, like cancer. The “targeted” cancer therapy approach is now being used for several types of cancer. Targeted cancer drugs act specifically on the abnormal biochemical pathway in the cancer cells, and often have only mild side effects. These targeted therapies may be useful for the treatment of LAM. There is no evidence that women with LAM would benefit from other cancer treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy

Am I at greater risk of getting cancer since I have LAM?

To my knowledge, women with LAM are not at greater risk of getting cancer.

How can LAM and cancer researchers work together?

Cancer and LAM researchers have been working together for at least eight years, and each year more cancer researchers become involved in LAM research. Many scientists strongly believe that LAM research will help us understand cancer, and cancer research will help us understand LAM.

What is the bottom line on LAM and cancer?

LAM cells and cancer cells have both similarities and differences. Whether or not LAM should be categorized as a type of cancer is controversial. LAM research is already benefiting from advances in cancer research. In the future, women with LAM are likely to benefit from advances in “targeted” cancer therapy.

source: The LAM Foundation (USA)

LAM Research Paper from the European Respiratory Society:
Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of Lymphangioleiomyomatosis