Important advances have improved our understanding of the role of the CFTR protein in the progression of suppurative pulmonary failure in cystic fibrosis. These discoveries are ushering in a new era of translational research that incorporates specific therapeutic targets and new cellular pathways. Progress in research on cystic fibrosis will continue to rely on an improved understanding of CFTR function and its relationship to mucociliary clearance, airway secretion, and other ion channels. Clinical advances directed at the correction of CFTR function predict an optimistic future for patients with cystic fibrosis and their families. Copyright © 2005 Massachusetts Medical Society.