2016 Lupus Insight Prize Goes to University of Massachusetts Professor

Ines Martins, PhD avatar

by Ines Martins, PhD |

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Lupus Insight Prize

Ann Marshak-Rothstein, professor of Medicine and Rheumatology at University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical School, received the 2016 Lupus Insight Prize for promising research to improve the treatment of the lupus-related skin disease called cutaneous lupus.

The award was announced at the recent 16th Annual Meeting of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS 2016) in Boston.

Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) President and CEO Sandra C. Raymond congratulated and praised Marshak-Rothstein for her work.

“There is an urgent need to better understand the causes and progression of cutaneous lupus, as well as improved outcomes for people undergoing treatment. Dr. Marshak-Rothstein’s work provides a strong foundation from which further advances in understanding and treatment can be made,” Raymond said in a press release.

The $200,000 Lupus Insight Prize recognizes significant, novel insights or discoveries that promise to change the scientific community’s view about lupus while further advancing understanding, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

The prize is provided jointly by LFA, the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR), the Lupus Research Institute (LRI).

“The collegial effort among the organizations involved in the Lupus Insight Prize demonstrates the focus of all involved in accelerating progress towards better treatments and ultimately, to finding a cure for lupus,” said ALR President Kenneth M. Farber. “By working with these organizations and with leaders in the field of lupus research towards a common goal, we have the potential to more quickly improve the lives of those living with lupus.”

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and tissue damage to any organ in the body. When lupus affects the skin, it is called cutaneous lupus.

Marshak-Rothstein generated a mouse model with symptoms mimicking cutaneous lupus.

“Over her 30-year career, Dr. Marshak-Rothstein has made deep and substantial contributions to advance lupus research, providing critical insight into the science underlying autoimmunity,” said LRI President and CEO Margaret G. Dowd. “Specifically she pioneered novel research into proteins known as Toll-like receptors that typically allow the immune system to identify intruders like bacteria and viruses. Her cutting-edge work discovered that Toll-like receptors also recognize nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA from mammals, including humans — an important insight that furthers our understanding of how autoimmunity develops.”

It is estimated that two-thirds of lupus patients eventually develop some form of cutaneous lupus. It can cause rashes, hair loss and major sores, or lesions, particularly to sun-exposed areas of the skin such as the face, ears, neck, arms and legs. Symptoms can significantly impact the patient’s self-esteem and quality of life.

With the Lupus Insight Prize, Marshak-Rothstein will continue to study her mouse model in an unprecedented way – investigating the role of two specific Toll-like receptors, TLR9 and TLR7, on different types of cells.