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Lupus Research Update: 2008 Volume 1

Volume 1, 2008 - Online Edition | In This Issue


ALR Funded International Consortium Identifies Genes Linked to Lupus >
The Faces of Lupus: Eddie Kennison, Kansas City Chiefs >
Meet the Investigator — Mary K. Crow, M.D., Named Chair of Scientific Advisory Board >
Research Results — A New Clue in the Survival of Autoimmune B Cells >
Research Results — Narrowing Down a Lupus-Related Gene >
Research Results — Finding Hidden Clues to Children's Lupus Nephritis >
Research Results — Finding Ways to a Safer Pregnancy for Women with Lupus >
Drug Research and Development News >
Leaving a Legacy >

Drug Research and Development News

Atacicept (TACI-Ig): ZymoGenetics, Inc. and Merck Serono International announced in January that they had received approval from the FDA for a Special Protocol Assessment for a phase II/III trial with atacicept in patients with lupus. The new study joins one already underway in patients with lupus nephritis. Atacicept contains the soluble TACI receptor which binds to the cytokines BLyS and APRIL, members of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family that promote B-cell survival and autoantibody production. Atacicept affects several stages of B-cell development and may inhibit the survival of cells that make autoantibodies.

The multicenter clinical study will be conducted internationally and will involve about 500 patients. It will evaluate the efficacy and safety of atacicept compared with placebo in preventing lupus flares.

CPG 52364: Coley Pharmaceutical Group, Inc, an international biopharmaceutical company based in Massachusetts, announced in October that it had begun a Phase I clinical trial of a toll-like receptor drug currently called CPG 52364. The drug is a new type of medication designed to inhibit toll-like receptors 7, 8, and 9, in turn inhibiting disease development in lupus and other autoimmune disorders in which toll-like receptors are inappropriately activated. Toll-like receptors 7 and 9 exist within B cells, which secrete high levels of interferon-α, contributing to disease severity. The inappropriate activation of these toll-like receptors drives lupus disease activity.

Toll-like receptor 8 is expressed in other cells of the immune system, which produce inflammatory chemicals that further contribute to the disease process. Suppressing these toll-like receptors could, in turn, limit inflammation without suppressing the entire immune system.

Rituximab (Rituxan): Researchers at the American College of Rheumatology meeting in Boston in November reported that a single course of rituximab led to a complete remission in children with pediatric lupus who had autoimmune thrombocytopenia (AITP), and in three who had autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA). Both conditions are related to lupus and lead to low blood counts and severe anemia. Most children receiving rituximab were in complete remission for at least nine months.1
1 Kumar S, Benseler S, Silverman E. B-cell depletion for autoimmune thrombocytopenia and autoimmune hemolytic anemia in pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus: a single center experience. Presented at: American College of Rheumatology Meeting; November 7-11, 2007; Boston, Mass. Presentation Number 876.


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