Leading the way to a cure

Lupus Research Update: 2007 Volume 1

Volume 1, 2007 - Online Edition | In This Issue

The results are in! >
ALR's 2007 grant recipients >
One Love. One Cause. ALR Gala a Smashing Success >
The Faces of Lupus >
Advocacy Update — ALR Goes to Washington >
Research Results - Rituximab Results in Long-Term Immune Alteration in Some Lupus Patients >
Research Results — Exploring Toll-Like Receptors’ (TLR) Role in Lupus >
Research Results – The Role of Myeloid Dendritic Cells in Lupus >
News Flash – American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting Update >
FDA Warning on Rituximab >
Drug Research and Development News >
Beyond the Research - 2007 Walk Sites Announced >

News Flash – American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting Update

The American College of Rheumatology’s 2006 annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C., in November, proved to be its biggest yet, breaking all previous attendance records. We spoke with Joseph E. Craft, M.D., the Alliance for Lupus Research’s Scientific Advisory Board chairman, about this year’s highlights.

• More on rituximab. Daniel A. Albert, M.D., who works with ALR-grantee Robert Eisenberg, M.D., reported on a study in which he found that patients treated with rituximab who experienced complete B cell depletion showed no immune response to pneumonia and tetanus vaccines. “One would be concerned that (rituximab) is a double-edged sword, and may not be a panacea for everyone” said Dr. Craft.

• Yaa mice and TLR7. A plenary paper by Silvia Bolland, Ph.D., and her team from the National Institutes of Health found a gene duplication of toll-like receptor (TLR) 7 (more on TLR7 on page 4) in a mouse model of lupus. This duplication correlated with a heightened response to autoantibody and self antigen stimulation. The finding provides further evidence that the TLR7 pathway is quite important in lupus, and that efforts to block it may be critical.

• Heart disease. Early atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is common in people with lupus, and numerous papers presented at the meeting focused on identifying early markers of the disease. ALR-funded researcher Michelle Petri, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and her team gave 200 lupus patients with no evidence of heart disease or significant risks for atherosclerosis either atorvastatin (Lipitor) or a placebo. They found some evidence that atorvastatin slowed the progression of carotid intima media thickness, an early sign of atherosclerosis.

Meanwhile, a Canadian group evaluated atherosclerotic risk factors in lupus patients over time and found that most have several risk factors when first diagnosed with the disease, including hypertension and high cholesterol (hypercholesteremia). While doctors are generally pretty good at treating the hypertension, the researchers found, they’re not as aggressive in treating the high cholesterol. “This study, in combination with Dr. Petri’s study, tells us we should be paying closer attention to hypercholesteremia and consider treating it with the hope that the treatment will be beneficial,” said Dr. Craft. In another study on the risk of atherosclerosis in lupus patients, ALR-funded researcher Marianna Kaplan, M.D. and her team from the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor found that dead endothelial cells (endothelial cells line blood vessels) in the blood of lupus patients strongly correlated with patients’ risk of atherosclerosis. Her work confirms earlier findings and suggests that patients with higher numbers of these dead, or apoptotic, cells develop significantly greater atherosclerosis, than those with fewer apoptotic cells. The finding could lead to a new test to identify lupus patients at greatest risk of developing early atherosclerosis. The next step, says Dr. Kaplan, is to identify the mechanisms that promote these accelerated cell deaths.

Finally, ALR-funded researcher Bevra Hahn, M.D., added to her body of work linking abnormal HDL cholesterol in lupus patients to atherosclerosis. She reported on a study that found a form of the “good” cholesterol, piHDL, was significantly associated with plaque buildup on the carotid artery. Her finding may provide a new tool to identify patients at risk of developing atherosclerosis.

You can read these and other abstracts from the meeting at www.abstractsonline.com/ viewer/SearchResults.asp.


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