Leading the way to a cure

Lupus Research Update: 2012 Volume 1

Volume 1, 2012 - Online Edition | In This Issue

Offering New Promise in Diagnosis >
Biomarkers - an Important Diagnostic Tool >
New Guidelines in Diagnosing Lupus Nephritis >
Faces of Lupus: Mack the Molecule! >
2012 ALR TIL Grantees Named >
Lupus News Corner >

Offering New Promise in Diagnosis

Lupus is one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose. It deceptively mimics other ailments and affects no two people in exactly the same way.

Periods of illness or flares and periods of wellness or remission characterize lupus. Its wide-ranging symptoms may come and go without warning.

And while there is no single test to determine if a person has lupus, several tests are available to help a doctor make a diagnosis. But they can be inconclusive, as other factors, such as infection, can cause a false positive reading.

During the past 11 years, the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR) has put resources and energy into studies aimed at finding more definitive diagnostic tools. The most promising involve biomarkers, or "early predictors" for clues in blood and tissue.

In one such investigation, former ALR grantee, Dr. Joseph Ahearn, Co-Director of the Lupus Center of Excellence and Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President of Allegheny Singer Research Institute of the West Penn Allegheny Health System, discovered a common biomarker (C4d) in the platelets of patients with lupus.

"Proper, quick diagnosis leads to better treatment," said Dr. Ahearn, and that certainly is the hope of a validation study that was offered through trials in 14 hospitals last year. To learn more about this blood test — as well as the pivotal role the ALR played in Dr. Ahearn's initial study — please read the article on page 4.

Meanwhile in a current ALR-funded study, Dr. Shu Man Fu, from the University of Virginia is looking at biomarkers from another angle. He and his team are using biomarkers to discover why the majority of people with lupus eventually develop lupus nephritis, or damage to the kidney and its blood supply.

Lupus nephritis is not only difficult to treat, it is also difficult to diagnose and track, often requiring a kidney biopsy to identify the stage of the disease. "Finding biomarkers could allow us to track the progression of the disease in a less invasive way. Biomarkers would also help in predicting flares, managing lupus, and in designing clinical trials for new therapies," shared Dr. Fu.

The ALR places the highest priority on funding research aimed at finding biomarkers. These proteins, enzymes, or other molecules may unlock the answer to an early warning system of a lupus flare. Ultimately, this could mean that doctors would be able to treat patients before organ damage occurs.

The Challenge of Diagnosis: Lupus is enigmatic. One patient may have some, but not necessarily all, of the telltale signs: rash, fatigue, swollen joints and damage to the kidneys, heart, or other vital organs.
Hope on the Horizon: Biomarkers hold the promise of enhancing diagnostic accuracy, prognosis, monitoring of treatment response, and detection of early flares.

1.5 million

people in the U.S. have Lupus.

172 million

dollars committed to lupus research by the Lupus Research Alliance.

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