At Children’s Hospital Colorado, Glenn Furuta, MD, is making life better for children with the rare, allergic inflammatory condition eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).
Kids with EoE typically have a hard time swallowing food. Their symptoms can be vague, with stomachache and vomiting topping the list. Mealtimes become a big struggle for many families, as the child often eats just enough to grow but, according to Dr. Furuta, not enough to satisfy all their nutritional needs.
As director of the Gastrointestinal Eosinophilic Diseases Program at Children’s Colorado, Dr. Furuta and his team diagnose EoE via an endoscopy and biopsy. If an accumulation of eosinophilic cells is found in the esophagus, the child will require routine monitoring. Until recently, this meant repeat endoscopies and potentially anesthesia, which can be distressing, expensive and put the patient at increased risk of complications.
“It’s very difficult to know if the disease is active or not, because often symptoms don’t match what we see under the microscope in the tissue. Our current understanding of the disease doesn’t allow for simpler diagnostic testing,” Dr. Furuta said.
The main way clinicians monitor inflammation in EoE patients is by sampling the child’s mucus via endoscopy. But Dr. Furuta wondered if an existing, minimally invasive approach used to detect parasites in adults could work instead.
Called an entero, or string test, patients swallow a capsule filled with string that remains taped to their cheek. Dr. Furuta and his team used the tool in children and found that the technique did detect eosinophil-derived proteins in the mucus and was thus an accurate measure of esophageal eosinophilic inflammation.
“Our findings can’t eliminate endoscopy, but we do believe the string test can be useful for monitoring disease activity in patients with known EoE,” he said.
To address this need, Dr. Furuta and colleagues formed a company called EnteroTrack that will facilitate bringing this technology to patient use.
David Brumbaugh, MD, associate chief medical officer at Children’s Colorado, said Dr. Furuta is transforming how kids with gastrointestinal eosinophilic disorders are treated. He explained that the multidisciplinary clinic Dr. Furuta has created serves as an international model for the comprehensive care of these disorders, incorporating allergists, pathologists, feeding specialists and professionals who help families with their psychosocial needs.
“Dr. Furuta has advanced our understanding of EoE, a relatively recently discovered disease that appears to be increasing in incidence in children,” he said.
Although Dr. Furuta’s compassion for his patients is evident in the rapport he develops with patients and their families, Dr. Brumbaugh believes it extends much further. “For Dr. Furuta, compassionate care also means the development of breakthrough advances in testing and treatment that improve outcomes and quality of life for kids,” he said.
These advances come down to Dr. Furuta, his co-director Dan Atkins, MD, and his multidisciplinary team taking a ‘big picture’ approach to caring for patients with these diseases, through not only the initial evaluation and treatment but also longitudinal care. Dr. Furuta believes the families he works with appreciate such a holistic approach to treatment.
“We have patients who travel here from across the country because they appreciate how we engage with them and provide individualized, personalized care. They know they are getting the newest treatments available, and that we’re engaging in research that collaborates with people from across the world.”
“That’s what’s great about an academic institution—we’re very focused on advancing our understanding and sharing this information globally. And we do it because it’s the right thing to do for patients.”
Disclosure: Dr. Furuta is a co-founder of EnteroTrack.
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