Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) and Women's Lung Health
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis, also known as LAM, is a rare, progressive lung disease that most commonly affects women in their 30s and 40s, and almost never occurs in men.
In LAM, abnormal, smooth muscle-like cells begin to grow out of control in the tissues of the lungs, lymph nodes, lymphatic system and kidneys. Over time, these cells destroy the normal lung tissue and block the flow of air. As LAM progresses, the damaged lung becomes unable to take up oxygen normally, preventing the lungs from providing oxygen to the rest of the body.
Doctors do not yet know what causes LAM. The recent discovery of similarities between two different types of LAM, sporadic LAM, in which the disease occurs for unknown reasons, and LAM that appears in people with a rare inherited disease called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC), has begun to provide some valuable clues about genes involved in both conditions. The rate of disease progression varies considerably among women. Some women have aggressive disease and experience rapid progression within a couple of years, while for others, the disease may advance quite slowly for many years.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital has a special center comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians and researchers working to find out more about what causes LAM and how to treat the disease. The center is headed by Dr. Elizabeth Henske, MD, a medical oncologist and leading researcher on LAM.