A new research study published in the journal Cell may radically advance drug development for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The article, “Personalized Immunomonitoring Uncovers Molecular Networks That Stratify Lupus Patients,” is authored by Dr. Virginia Pascual, the study’s senior author from Baylor Institute for Immunology Research, which is part of the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute in Dallas.
“This is a landmark study that has the potential to dramatically improve treatment and quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of people suffering with lupus,” Pascual said.
“This achievement reflects Dr. Pascual’s commitment to excellence and to continuous improvement of quality care for patients with lupus,” said Donald Wesson, Baylor Scott & White’s senior vice president of medical education and research, in a press release. “For many investigators, simply getting a publication in Cell is the highlight of their career, but for Dr. Pascual it’s another great honor in a career that has brought prestige to her work and to Baylor Scott & White Health.”
The research team analyzed the transcription of 924 genes in blood samples from 158 children with lupus, from the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children clinics and others for a maximum of four years. This tailored immuno-monitoring approach – which assesses the activity of gene expression in different cell types – enabled researchers to classify participants into seven separate groups with molecular disease structures alike at the time of disease flares and remissions.
Pascual and her research group wanted to understand the molecular diversity of SLE in a quest to make future drug development simpler and more effective.
“The results included in this paper provide an explanation for why clinical trials fail in lupus, and opens the door for true personalized approaches to drug discovery and treatment in this disease,” Pascual said.
SLE is a chronic condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks the tissues of the body, causing systemic inflammation, pain, and organ damage. It’s a complex disease, very hard to diagnose, and with no direct single detection test available. It is also unique in individual patients, with different symptoms experienced from case to case. In addition, clinical trials assessing potential drug treatments for SLE have had limited rates of success.
Dr. Marilynn Punaro, medical director of rheumatology at Scottish Rite, and the remaining co-authors of the study agree that their findings might improve clinical trial design and implementation of personalized therapy approaches in lupus and other complex autoimmune diseases.