Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lupus Nephritis Responds to Treatment with Cancer Drug Rituxan

Rituxan, a drug used to treat cancer patients, may be effective in the treatment of lupus nephritis, according to the findings of researchers at the Imperial College London.

The study was small, and included only 20 participants who had severe damage to their kidneys as a result of lupus. Of the people who took Rituxan for a period of 22 months, more than half had measurable improvement in their condition, although those with African ancestry and those with low albumin protein in their blood were not helped by the drug.

Rituxan works by inhibiting the function of hyperactive B cells that cause kidney inflammation in those with lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system begins to attack bodily organs. Lupus creates an environment of chronic inflammation in the body that can lead to muscle and joint pain, chronic fatigue, damage to the central nervous system, and organ failure.

According to Virginia T. Ladd, president and executive director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Rituxan is a real breakthrough for those with lupus nephritis. About 40 percent of those with systemic lupus erythematosus develop this condition. Rituxan is the first new drug in 50 years found to be effective in the treatment of this disease.

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