LAFAYETTE HILL, Pa. (WPVI) -- Pulmonary fibrosis turns the lungs to scar tissue, making it harder and harder to breathe.
Help may be on the way, however. A drug being tested locally aims at giving sufferers their breath back.
"I was having a cold, chest cold, and it wouldn't go away," recalls Dennis Hood.
When Hood learned that "cold" was Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, or IPF, his first doctor had a grim prognosis.
"People that have that disease normally live 3 to 5 years," he recalls her saying, adding, "I left there really downtrodden and emotionally upset."
Hood found a better approach at the Temple Lung Center.
"Each person has an individual situation, a different case, different circumstances, difference genes," he notes.
Pulmonologist Dr. Aamir Ajmeri says IPF causes progressive scarring in the lungs, mostly in older men.
While the cause is unknown, Ajmeri says we do know different mechanisms for this kind of scarring.
Two medications, Ofev and Esbriet, slow the scarring, but Dr. Ajmeri says patients need more.
Temple Health is in phase 3 trials for a new drug, Fibroneer.
It was very promising in an earlier trial elsewhere.
"The lung function stayed totally stable. So it did not decline at all," says Dr. Ajmeri.
Hood is in the trial, convinced he is getting Fibroneer, not the placebo, or dummy pill.
His blood oxygen level used to range from 90 to 93 percent.
"My oxygen level now is anywhere from 94 to 96. Most of the time around 95. And so that's a considerable jump," notes Hood.
He also feels less shortness of breath so he can be more active, going to the gym five days a week.
"I'm doing more things in the garden," he says, "I'm involved in helping other people. I'm in support mode for a mission in Norristown. I take communion to people who can't come to church for it."
Even with Fibroneer, he can remain on the other medications, which he feels have helped his IPF.
Dr. Ajmeri says the enrollment phase is over, but patients are being monitored for a year and beyond.
"At the end of the trial period, if it is revealed that you've been on the placebo, you can actually get the medication itself after that," he says.
Dr. Ajmeri says the side effects of Fibroneer have been manageable.
The most common is diarrhea. Hood says he adjusted his fiber intake to take care of that concern.
Hood is grateful for the medications he takes and Temple's team approach.
His brother was also diagnosed with IPF, but has since passed away.
And he believes his father, a Philadelphia firefighter, may have had it too, though he was diagnosed with an asbestos-related ailment.