Leading the way to a cure

Lupus Research Update: 2013 Volume 3

Volume 3, 2013 | In This Issue

An Innovative Approach to Lupus Research >
Exploring Drugs Already in Existence >
Predicting and Developing Treatment Pathways For Lupus Nephritis >
Overcoming Personal Pain to Help Others with Lupus >
Two Doctors Receive Awards for Excellence >
Lupus News Corner >

Predicting and Developing Treatment Pathways For Lupus Nephritis

For more than 30 years, Vicki Kelley, PhD from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has been fascinated by the somewhat unexpected role of human kidney cells in inciting lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys caused by lupus.

Today, she and her team are tracking specific molecules that hold the promise of identifying therapeutic targets and biomarkers.

With her current ALR grant, Dr. Kelley is looking to improve outcomes for people with the disease. She is examining macrophages, or white cells in the blood, which are central to lupus nephritis and the specific function of the molecule Colony Stimulating Factor 1 (CSF-1) that these macrophages need to survive and multiply. In a prior study, Dr. Kelley discovered that CSF-1 promotes lupus nephritis in murine models.

The role of this macrophage is complex. Dr. Kelley explains: “Macrophages both protect and destroy.”

So, Dr. Kelley and her team have been looking at the role of CSF-1 and a second molecule that binds to the CSF-1 receptor called IL-34. This groundbreaking body of work is already having an impact. A major pharmaceutical company is conducting a clinical trial on cutaneous lupus (lupus of the skin) by using an antibody that blocks CSF-1. Other companies are looking for ways to block CSF-1 or its receptor to benefit people with lupus nephritis — although these trials are not yet underway.

What are the benefits of finding a biomarker?

Dr. Kelley clarifies: “We’re looking to identify biomarkers, proteins of genes whose activation predict flairs and even the onset of kidney disease in lupus patients. This would be a wonderful tool to truly individualize therapy and begin treatment before, not after, kidney damage.”

She explains the immediate benefit of a biomarker is that it would eliminate the need for kidney biopsies. “You can do one kidney biopsy, rarely two. The procedures are invasive and there is a risk of serious complications.”

Anyone meeting Dr. Kelley quickly discovers that she is passionate about her work and that it extends to the ALR itself: “The ALR has the best plan to try and fast track getting to therapeutics.”  Three of Dr. Kelley’s own cousins have the disease — so her desire to alleviate the pain associated with lupus is truly heartfelt.

1.5 million

people in the U.S. have Lupus.

172 million

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