Promising new treatment for lupus on the horizon

Source: Monash University Press Release

A drug originally used to boost the immune system is showing promise as a potential new treatment for lupus, joint Monash University and Peking University research published today shows. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks the body’s own organs and tissues.

An international team of scientists from Australia and China have, for the first time, shown in a study published in Nature Medicine, that a natural immune system protein called IL-2 can help restore balance to the overactive immune system of lupus patients. The drug could soon be rolled out for clinical trials in lupus treatment.

"This drug, which can help the immune system fight against cancer, was approved in the 1990s but is not commonly used now. We’re now using this drug for a different purpose, based on our new knowledge of the immune system,” Dr Yu said. “The amount we tested for treating lupus is much less than the dose used in treating cancers. We observed the treatment was safe and showed promising results, so there’s reason to believe formal trials could begin almost immediately,” he said.

One of the study investigators, Professor Eric Morand noted, "The real promise of this treatment is that it calms the hyperactive immune system through multiple mechanisms, which is very important as this new therapy may be effective for many patients." With significant support from the Lupus Research Institute Distinguished Innovator Award (DIA), Dr. Morand is also involved in a major study investigating a protein called GILZ produced by glucocorticoids that reduces inflammation without the usual side effects of steroids. 

LRI’s global DIA program allows exceptional researchers who match scientific rigor with innovative vision to conduct major projects for up to $1 million that can uncover the root causes of lupus and advance treatment that could arrest or reverse the disease.