Immune-Boosting Drug Shows Promise For Treating Lupus

A drug used in immunotherapy could help suppress the overactive immune system of lupus patients in much lower doses, a study suggests.

AsianScientist (Aug. 22, 2016) – A drug originally used to boost the immune system is showing promise as a potential new treatment for lupus, according to a new study published in Nature Medicine.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the body’s own organs and tissues. The most distinctive sign of lupus is a facial rash resembling the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks.

A joint Monash University and Peking University research study shows that a natural immune system protein called interleukin-2 (IL-2) can help restore balance to the overactive immune system of lupus patients.

“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,” said Dr. Yu Di, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute researcher and co-leader of the study.

“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.”

IL-2 is a protein that regulates the activity of white blood cells, an important component of the immune system that protects the body against infections. In cancer therapy, patients are given large doses of IL-2 to stimulate their immune system.

Paradoxically, the low dose IL-2 given to lupus sufferers in this study actually suppressed the overactive part of their immune system that attacks their bodies. The research also showed the ‘self-checking’ part of the immune system that prevents an overactive immune response, called regulatory T-cells, increased after IL-2 treatment.

The drug could soon be rolled out for clinical trials in lupus treatment, the researchers say.

The article can be found at: He et al. (2016) Low-dose Interleukin-2 Treatment Selectively Modulates CD4+ T-Cell Subsets in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.


Source: Monash University.
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