Celebrate Black History Month!
What better time to recognize the contribution of someone who is working to help the lupus community, and particularly concerned with overcoming disparities in care most striking among African Americans.
As a 2017 Novel Research Grant recipient, Andrea Knight, MD, MSCE of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is leading a clinical study to see if new biomarkers (indicators to monitor disease) can shed light on why psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety are so common in kids with lupus. These disorders may be even more prevalent among African Americans, but they are less likely to be diagnosed and treated. Her goal – to get vulnerable patients diagnosed and into treatment faster so they get relief from emotional effects of lupus that can be just as debilitating as physical symptoms.
Andrea came into the lupus field with no personal connection to the disease – but quickly made it her life’s work when she saw the toll lupus takes on emotional health. Early in her training she saw the effects of depression and anxiety on her adolescent patients who struggled to deal with lupus. She recalls a 16-year-old African-American girl who felt very overwhelmed with the stigma and burdens of lupus, falling into a deep depression and becoming suicidal. “I was especially concerned to see higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts among minority patients, particularly because our research also shows that African Americans are less likely to receive mental health treatment. We need to know why psychiatric issues are more common among this group so we can improve and tailor treatment.” Knowing that the inflammation of lupus can affect the brain, Dr. Knight also realized that we don’t yet have the knowledge and tools to differentiate between the potential causes of psychiatric disorders in lupus patients – lupus inflammation, its treatment, or the burden of chronic illness.
With her Lupus Research Alliance grant, Andrea is leading a study to compare the emotional and cognitive (ability to think, reason, remember) status of 30 young people with lupus compared to a group of young people who do not suffer from lupus or any other chronic illness. By using sophisticated MRI imaging to study their brain and testing their blood for potential biomarkers for brain inflammation, Andrea and her team will see if there is any correlation between psychiatric symptoms and the type of lupus they have, how active the disease is, or what treatments they are taking. And they will be looking at whether factors like race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status play any role.
“Enrolling people in any clinical study can be hard, but we’re finding that parents are very invested in getting their kids the treatment they need, helping us find answers to the many unknowns in lupus and making it easier for other families who are in the same boat.”
Please recognize Black History Month by joining us in supporting researchers like Dr. Knight whose work can bring a happier future for kids with lupus.
And explore opportunities to take part in a clinical study at LupusTrials.org.