October 28, 2019
Because lupus is hard to diagnose, many patients don’t get the treatments they need, while others get the wrong therapies. Two new studies indicate that the AVISE Lupus blood test can help doctors find out whether patients have lupus. The test builds on seminal studies by Lupus Research Alliance-funded scientist Dr. Joseph Ahearn of the Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Patients with lupus produce immune system proteins called antibodies that attack their own cells. These antibodies can include anti-nuclear antibodies, or ANAs, that target the nucleus, the cell’s command center. However, a positive ANA test does not mean a patient has lupus, and testing for other types of antibodies is not definitive either.
More than a decade ago, Dr. Ahearn tried something radically new. His approach checked to see if a group of proteins in the blood known as the complement system has turned on. The complement system is part of our body’s defenses against infections, but it also switches on in lupus. When that happens, blood cells have certain complement molecules stuck to them. Dr. Ahearn’s test measured the levels of these molecules.
AVISE Lupus, developed by the company Exagen of Vista, California, also tests for complement molecules on blood cells and measures eight types of antibodies, including antinuclear antibodies (ANAs). The two new studies explored if the test provides useful information to doctors in real-world situations. One of the studies included patients who had positive ANA tests but had not been diagnosed with lupus. Some of the patients were given the AVISE Lupus test, while others received a standard blood test. The results suggest that AVISE Lupus was better than standard tests at ruling out patients who didn’t have lupus and identifying the ones who did.
The patients in the second study probably had lupus, but their doctors weren’t sure. Researchers found that AVISE Lupus can predict whether these patients are likely to be diagnosed with lupus within the next 18 months. Together, the studies suggest that the test does help improve doctors’ ability to accurately diagnose patients with lupus.