June 2011

Exciting Lupus Updates from EULAR, the Major European Rheumatology Meeting

Some highlights from LRI Research Director Jennifer Bell, PhD's LIVE FROM LONDON blog:

I ARRIVED: Volcanic ash and high winds brought Barack Obama to a stand still in the UK this week, but not me. I’m feeling slightly smug as I bypass the airport and sip my latte on the fast train from Edinburgh to London, on my way to the Annual European Congress in Rheumatology (aka EULAR).

Some 16,000 rheumatologists, physicians, researchers, and patients converged at London’s ExCeL center (volcanic ash permitting). The packed program covered the full range of rheumatic diseases, from anti-phospholipid syndrome to vasculitis.

I, however, I homed in on what’s new in lupus.

DAY 1: Strategy for Cancer = A Strategy for Lupus?

Drugs that block the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) can successfully stem cancer growth. Could the same strategy work in inflammatory diseases such as lupus?

Dr. Lu: “The field is booming. I am confident that we will find ways to either prevent or disrupt lymph node angiogenesis in a sustained manner.” Read more 

Dr. Theresa Lu of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York—
and a two-time LRI grant holder—chaired a session dedicated to this question.

DAY 2: New Lupus Treatments—the Tour

“A graveyard for drugs” was how EULAR President, Professor Paul Emery, described lupus as he reflected on the past 10 years in rheumatology.

But Dr. Jane Salmon is more optimistic about future lupus therapies.

“Right now we have a very broad portfolio of potential therapeutic targets and interventions, from simple vitamin D to complex tolorogenic peptides,” said Dr. Salmon. “And we have life experience in biologics.”

See OTHER highlights from the poster tour here.



Dr. Jane Salmon of the Hospital for Special Surgery 
in New Yorkand an LRI grant holderco-chaired the 
guided tour of scientific posters on lupus treatments.

ALSO on DAY 2: New Ideas on the Cause and Development of Lupus

Lots of new hypotheses are emerging on how the lupus immune system turns on the body, from autoantibody-producing cells being established early in life (long before the disease appears) to hot properties in lupus drug development.

Find out more about these and other ideas I heard about. 


After three days of navigating the behemoth congress in search of new insights on lupus I came home with a stack of business cards, a mass of notes, and sore feet.

So what did I learn?

First: the possibilities for new lupus therapies have never looked better.

Over two dozen targeted lupus therapies are being tested in clinical trials—and companies as well as scientists agree: there is a real chance that some will succeedSee more about therapies in the spotlight at the meeting.

Second: more research on the mechanisms of lupus is critical if targeted therapies for the disease are to succeed.

Third: there is a new energy in the lupus field. 

The main lupus sessions packed out the largest auditorium, with standing room only in smaller sessions.

The glass is no longer half-empty for lupus!

It seems pharmaceutical company scientists and researchers from other disciplines want to know what is happening in lupus research  In part, this is likely due to the impact of a drug finally getting approval for use in lupus—the “Benlysta™” effect—but there also is a lot of new science to get excited about.

And as Dr. Frederic Houssiau (Belgium) said, with typical European moderation, “keep filling the glass with good basic and clinical research. It will always remain half full…if not full.”


See Jen’s full EULAR blog here
or at Facebook.com/LupusResearch

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