The symposium, which is summarized in the accompanying articles, addressed many of these issues and served to confirm the enormous complexity of the disorder that is COPD. COPD is characterized by embarrassing and distressful symptoms such as persistent cough, excessive sputum production, and dyspnea. Furthermore, this syndrome is associated with slowly progressive, irreversible declines in lung function, repeated pulmonary infections, and muscle weakness. These chronic manifestations of COPD are accompanied by breathlessness, often with only mild exertion, decreased mobility, repeated hospitalizations, reduced quality of life, and ultimately, due to unrelenting respiratory failure, death. Since COPD is usually a result of long-term smoking, patients often have comorbidity associated not only with their habit, but also with aging, including pulmonary hypertension, coronary vascular disease, and cancer.