Researchers are focusing on finding better treatments for lupus. A primary goal of this research is to develop treatments that can effectively minimize the use of corticosteroids. Scientists are trying to identify combination therapies that may be more effective than single treatment approaches. Another goal is to improve the treatment and management of lupus in the kidneys and central nervous system. For example, a 20-year study supported by the NIAMS and the NIH found that combining cyclophosphamide with prednisone helped delay or prevent kidney failure, a serious complication of lupus.
On the basis of new information about the disease process, scientists are using novel "biologic agents" to selectively block parts of the immune system. Development and testing of these new drugs, which are based on compounds that occur naturally in the body, comprise an exciting and promising new area of lupus research. The hope is that these treatments not only will be effective, but also will have fewer side effects. Preliminary research suggests that white blood cells known as B cells may play a key role in the development of lupus. Biologics that interfere with B cell function or block the interactions of immune cells are active areas of research. These targeted treatments hold promise because they have the advantage of reduced side effects and adverse reactions compared with conventional therapies. Clinical trials are testing the safety and effectiveness of rituximab (also called anti-CD20) in treating people with lupus. Rituximab is a genetically engineered antibody that blocks the production of B cells. Other treatment options currently being explored include reconstructing the immune system by bone marrow transplantation. In the future, gene therapy also may play an important role in lupus treatment.
Hope for the Future
With research advances and a better understanding of lupus, the prognosis for people with lupus today is far brighter than it was even 20 years ago. It is possible to have lupus and remain active and involved with life, family, and work. As current research efforts unfold, there is continued hope for new treatments, improvements in quality of life, and, ultimately, a way to prevent or cure the disease. The research efforts of today may yield the answers of tomorrow, as scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of lupus.
For More Information
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and
Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse is a public service sponsored by the NIAMS that provides health information and information sources. The clearinghouse provides information on lupus. Fact sheets, additional information, and research updates can also be found on the NIAMS Web site at www.niams.nih.gov.
The Department of Health and Human Services� National Institutes of Health, through its National Library of Medicine, has developed ClinicalTrials.gov to provide patients, family members, and members of the public current information about clinical research studies. You can search for trials by disease, location, treatment, or by funding organization at the Web site clinicaltrials.gov.
American College of Rheumatology
The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) is an organization of doctors and associated health professionals who specialize in arthritis and related diseases of the bones, joints, and muscles. The Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals, a division of ACR, aims to enhance the knowledge and skills of rheumatology health professionals and to promote their involvement in rheumatology research, education, and quality patient care. The association also works to advance and promote basic and continuing education in rheumatology for health professionals who provide care to people with rheumatic diseases.
Alliance for Lupus Research, Inc.
The Alliance for Lupus Research, Inc. (ALR), is a nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to the support of promising research for the prevention, treatment, and cure of lupus. Through accelerated, focused, goal-oriented research programs, the ALR aims to promote basic and clinical sciences to achieve major advances leading to a better understanding of the causes of lupus.
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) is the only national nonprofit voluntary health agency dedicated to bringing a national focus and collaborative effort to the over 100 known autoimmune diseases through education, awareness, research, and patient services. By collaborating with the National Coalition of Autoimmune Patient Groups (NCAPG), AARDA supports legislative advocacy for autoimmune disease patients. AARDA provides free patient education information, physician and agency referrals, forums and symposia, and a quarterly newsletter.
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