Lupus is an autoimmune disease, i.e., a disease where the immune system attacks the person’s own body, and it manifests via different symptoms (a key factor frequently delaying the correct diagnosis). Currently without any cure, worldwide experts (from over 80 countries) are meeting in Vienna, Austria, from the 2nd – 6th of September, to discuss the most recent developments in lupus research. The meeting is organized by at The Medical University of Vienna (MedUni Vienna).
Currently affecting approximately 5 million individuals throughout the world, particularly women, lupus leads to chronic inflammation that affects several body parts, including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs, as Josef Smolen, Director of MedUni Vienna Department of Internal Medicine III at Vienna General Hospital noted, “No other disease has such a broad spectrum of clinical expressions. It can affect all organs, joints and muscles. This makes it all the more difficult to diagnose and to find the most appropriate form of treatment. Hence lupus is the most complex disease in the world.”
Increased research on lupus mechanisms have widening our understanding of the disease, and have led to new medicines as Georg Stummvoll of the Department of Rheumatology at MedUni Vienna Department of Internal Medicine III in Vienna General Hospital explained, “Although cortisone is still a mainstay of treatment, new therapeutic approaches often have fewer side effects and so improve quality of life. It is important to diagnose it correctly at an early stage, because, if it goes untreated, lupus can be fatal, ultimately leading to organ failure. The earlier it is detected, the more successfully it can be treated.”
One of the most recent developed therapies are personalized immunotherapies, where patients’ own immune responses are activated according to their specific disease immune profile. Josef Smolen commented this particular aspect of lupus research, “The treatment of autoimmune diseases such as lupus requires therapies that interfere with the actual genesis of the disease. Targeted therapies are directed at cell receptors on a molecular level. The therapy primarily targets active B lymphocytes in the immune system. In future this should be specifically tailored to the patient.”