A New Potential Treatment That Gives Hope to Lupus Sufferers

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Lupus is a very elusive disease that still has no cure. However, one molecule, which had not shown any positive results in the first study, turned out to be significant in the second. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Lupus Retina
Lupus Retina

Lupus affects 1.5 million people in the US, most of whom are women of child bearing age. Although this mysterious disease cannot yet be cured, a potential drug has just given encouraging results. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Lupus a disease that can attack all organs

Systemic lupus erythematosus, its real name, is a chronic autoimmune disease. In other words, the immune system attacks itself. The disease can then affect the skin, kidneys, joints, lungs and nervous system. So the symptoms can be very varied, which can make the diagnosis difficult. However, 10% of patients are at risk of dying in the next ten years, “which, if diagnosed in their twenties, is a terrible result,” regrets Professor Eric Morand, the study’s lead author.

Second possible treatment in 60 years

To date, only one drug has been approved to treat lupus in the past 60 years. It’s Benlysta, approved for use in 2012. The reasons for this are “heterogeneity of disease, inadequate study size or duration, (an) inadequate dose, standard drug handling and choice of primary endpoint,” according to a 2016 study. Thus, Anifrolumab, the drug that gives hope to today’s researchers, had initially failed to prove itself. In the first trial, not all patients were taking the highest dose of the drug (300 mg).

Almost 1 in 2 patients improved their condition

In this second phase 3 study, the results were not the same. First, it was conducted in 119 hospitals in 16 countries, where 362 people were divided into two groups. In the first, they took Anifrolumab 300 mg and in the second, a placebo. In total, 47.8% of patients improved with the drug, compared to 31.5% with the placebo. However, there was no improvement in certain criteria of the disease, such as the number of relapses per year or joint pain.

Anifrolumab Side effects

Anifrolumab is administered intravenously every month. It is an antibody modified to bind to interferons 1, a molecule that is produced in excess by 60-80% of lupus patients. Therefore, by blocking all interferon-1 receptors in all cells, the drug blocks the immune response responsible for the symptoms of the disease. However, adverse effects have been observed. In fact, Anifrolumab has been associated with an increase in upper respiratory tract infections and shingles. Researchers hope that vaccination can help reduce these risks.

References

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1912196

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