Can nicotine help treat a lung disease?
Crouser says nicotine is an anti-inflammatory and studies have shown smokers are less likely to get sarcoidosis. A small initial study using the patches showed some benefit.
“We hope patients will get double benefit – not only could their lung disease get better, but the nicotine can help them feel more energized,” Crouser says.
Trial participants are randomized to get patches with nicotine or a placebo for seven months. Researchers will measure lung function and disease progression or improvement using CAT scans and computer models.
No one knows exactly what causes sarcoidosis, but Crouser and other experts believe it’s related to environmental exposures. Symptoms vary widely, and the disease often mimics other conditions.
“It’s frequently misdiagnosed. Sarcoidosis can look like lung nodules, pneumonia, scar tissue, even lung cancer,” Crouser says. “It can appear in other organs like the heart, brain or liver. It differs from person to person.”