Leading the way to a cure

World Lupus Day

Lupus Research Alliance Announces Global Research Results to Usher in World Lupus Day

Lead Sponsor for Melbourne Meeting

The best way to celebrate World Lupus Day on May 10 is with significant research results -- real progress for people with lupus worldwide -- and that’s what Lupus Research Alliance funded scientists reported at the international Lupus 2017 conference!

Sponsored in part by the Lupus Research Alliance, the conference was chaired by a recent recipient of our most prestigious grant, the Dr. William E. Paul Distinguished Innovator Awards in Lupus and Autoimmunity, Eric Morand, PhD, of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Seven researchers funded by the Lupus Research Alliance reported their dramatic discoveries.

Virginia Pascual, MD - Director of the Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children’s Health at Weill Cornell Medical Center, NY and active member of the Lupus Research Alliance Scientific Advisory Board, reported on landmark data in her keynote lecture. She summarized her findings showing that disease can vary greatly among SLE patients, and that this variation is associated with molecular changes among patients. Dr. Pascual identified particular gene clusters associated with groups of patients with SLE. She and her team have found that similar changes in gene activity can occur in patients with non-inherited lupus and those with rare genetic forms of the disease. Identifying molecular similarities between patients might reveal the changes that are most important for the development of lupus in individual patients and suggest new ways to treat the disease.

David Tarlinton, PhD - The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Parkville, Australia, and Distinguished Innovator Awardee, discussed his research on Lyn, a protein that regulates the activation of pathogenic plasma cells in SLE. He highlighted novel proteins in mouse models that work together with Lyn to regulate the production of disease-causing autoantibodies. His work opens up a new path for discovery of novel targets for drug development in SLE.

Eoin McKinney, PhD - University of Cambridge, UK, and Distinguished Innovator Award recipient Kenneth Smith, MD, PhD, also of Cambridge, found that lupus patients often do better if their T cells become too exhausted to function . He described their research on identification of these exhausted cells in SLE. The research team is now working to develop a simpler test to measure these exhausted cells and give us the ability to identify patients whose disease is likely to be less severe and those who may need intensive treatments.

Sarah Jones, PhD - Monash University, presented Distinguished Innovator Award-funded research from Dr. Eric Morand’s lab on the protein GILZ, a new target for treatment, produced by immune system cells. GILZ acts as a brake on damaging B cells and mice lacking GILZ developed a lupus like disease. Their work might help researchers identify a safer treatment that can replace steroids with fewer side effects.

Betty Diamond, MD - The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research|Northwell Health, Manhasset, NY, described research funded by the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) on lupus nephritis, an inflammatory disease of the kidneys that can be life-threatening. AMP is a public/private collaboration that includes the Lupus Research Alliance. Dr. Diamond, together with the AMP network of research leaders, is using state of the art techniques to identify cells and genes that are expressed in the kidneys of patients with lupus nephritis. Understanding which genes the cells switch on might provide clues about how kidney damage occurs in lupus nephritis, how this process differs among patients and how best to treat individual patients.

Joseph Craft, MD - Yale Medical School, New Haven, CT, showed that timing of therapies may determine whether they are effective. He showed that agents that block specialized T cells could be effective in animal models of lupus if given early, but that once disease was well established, these agents were no longer effective. Thus, we need to consider starting some therapies earlier in SLE to prevent disease progression.

Hal Scofield, MD - Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City, OK identified abnormal chromosomes in some patients who have lupus or another autoimmune disease, Sjögren's syndrome. Understanding these rare abnormalities will help pinpoint specific genes that may make people prone to lupus and could pave the way to prevention. As the largest private funder of lupus research, the Lupus Research Alliance supports studies worldwide, with current work actively underway on three continents. Visit LupusResearch.org to find out how the Lupus Research Alliance is “Breaking through for YOU” with scientific innovation, advocacy, and awareness to transform the lives of people with lupus worldwide.