Young UCLA patient crusades for lung disease awareness

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2012-04-02 18:38

LOS ANGELES, CA - Lucas Van Wormer has a disease, which is much more common in adults than children: pulmonary hypertension (PH). Thus, the 10-year-old UCLA patient is on a mission to raise awareness of an “adult” lung disease that affects kids too. Lucas is an up-and-coming voice-over actor who has voiced radio commercials and an animated television pilot. He has narrated a 30 second public service announcement to help educate the public about how the disease affects kids.

PH is high blood pressure in the blood vessels supplying the lungs. The condition is analogous to a kinked garden hose in which the pressure builds and backs up. The heart is forced to work harder to pump blood through the arteries. If the pressure gets high enough, the heart cannot keep up, and less blood circulates through the lungs to pick up oxygen. Symptoms can include shortness of breath with minimal exertion, fatigue, chest pain, dizzy spells and fainting. The disease has no cure, except a lung or heart-lung transplant. Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial to improving the medical outlook for patients. When left untreated, it can be fatal within a few years. Because many cases go undiagnosed, it is not known how many children are affected with the condition. Since it is generally thought of as an "adult" disease, research and treatments have been focused on older patients. In fact, there are nine drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adults with PH, all of them within the past decade and a half; however, there are no FDA-approved drugs for children.

Because of lack of public awareness, the Burbank fourth grader wants people to know that there is a huge gap in research that focuses on younger patients like him. He explained, "I want to find a cure for pulmonary hypertension. I hope my commercial helps do that. It's important to me that doctors find a cure for PH so they can save thousands of lives."

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