The Lupus Foundation of America recently reviewed the notable achievements and overall advances realized in 2017, finding that significant progress was made both in lupus awareness and in research and advocacy efforts.
Highlights for the foundation that helped to advance of lupus awareness and research included the singer Selena Gomez sharing her experience of undergoing a kidney transplant in September, necessary because of the severe damage to that organ caused by her lupus. Her public acknowledgement of this disease and what she went through helped to increase understanding of lupus, the foundation said in a press release, which in turn boosted public demand for greater research funding.
In December, the foundation announced it was supporting, with a $3.5 million, five-year award, the first clinical trial in the United States to evaluate mesenchymal stem cells as a possible lupus.
The Phase 1 trial (NCT03171194) is currently recruiting people with active systemic lupus erythematosus for a single, low-dose infusion of a umbilical-cord derived stem cell therapy. About six patients will be enrolled at two sites, one in Georgia and one in South Carolina, and followed for one year. Its primary goal is evaluating treatment safety and tolerability; second goals include measures of efficacy.
Scientists at University of Pennsylvania, in a 2015 study in mice, found that mesenchymal stem cell transplants can improve bone marrow function and alleviate the loss of bone protein and mineral content (osteopenia).
Another significant moment for lupus research came in October, when the Foundation worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Office of Minority Health, and the Department of Defense (DoD) to create a new Lupus Research Program within the DoD. This effort led to an additional $5 million in government support of studies seeking a cure for lupus.
“We are encouraged by the advances of 2017 and look forward to reporting on more successes during 2018 and beyond, with great hope of a better quality of life for all people impacted by lupus,” the organization said in its release.
2017 also brought hopeful news from a number of clinical trials into potential new lupus treatments, including results of ongoing or completed studies in voclosporin, anifrolumab, Stelara (ustekinumab), and atacicept.
The foundation also launched LupusConnect, an online community that allows lupus patients and their families and friends to share experiences, emotional support, and tips to help people manage their disease. LupusConnect was launched in September in partnership with the patient engagement platform Inspire.