Research highlight

A drug against blood cancer may also fight lupus

Nature Medicine

June 9, 2008

A drug used to treat multiple myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells, could also be useful for the treatment of the chronic autoimmune disease lupus erythematosus. A study published this online week in Nature Medicine suggests that this may lead to new treatment strategies for other antibody-mediated diseases.

Diseases like myasthenia gravis and systemic lupus are caused by autoantibodies produced by long-lived immune cells that show very high rates of protein generation. As myeloma cells respond to treatment with proteasome inhibitors, and their sensitivity correlates with their rates of protein synthesis, Reinhard Voll and his colleagues suggest that, in mice with lupus-like disease, those inhibitors would have a similar effect on the autoantibody-producing cells.

Using two mouse strains with ‘lupus’ they show that the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib ? a drug approved for the treatment of multiple myeloma ? blocks autoantibody production and prolongs survival of the mice. So, the elimination of autoreactive plasma cells by proteasome inhibitors might represent a new treatment strategy for antibody-associated diseases.

doi: 10.1038/nm1763

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