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2010-12-07 09:45:29
Lupus Research Aides the Development of New Medicine
Contact Information:
Natifia Gaines
(718) 206-6020

July 31, 2008 (Jamaica, NY)-- In recent years, clinical research in lupus has become increasingly beneficial in better understanding the complexity of the disease. Clinical research has resulted in new lupus developments that have allowed scientists and physicians the opportunity to test new medications and provide hope to lupus patients and their families. In order to continue the efforts to develop new treatments, Rheumatology Specialists are urging lupus patients to consider participating in research projects.

“There hasn’t been a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved lupus treatment in over 40 years and the disease remains incurable," explained Dr. Meggan Mackay, Rheumatology Specialist at Jamaica Hospital’s Lupus Center and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. “The existence, however, of at least 10 current and ongoing trials of new medications, will assist us in increasing an overall understanding of the disease and developing better forms of treatment."

Several current lupus medications, such as prednisone, cyclophosphamide, azathioprine and cellcept, may have adverse side-effects. These include risk of infection, infertility for young women, and an increased risk for developing cancer. Despite these potential complications with existing medications, they are a “necessary evil" and essential for the well-being of lupus patients. Previously, the mortality rate without treatment was 50%, whereas with treatment, current mortality is 10% or less.

Lupus, an autoimmune disease, is characterized by fatigue, joint pain or swelling, fever, skin rash, kidney inflammation and less often, mouth sores and hair loss. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, more than 16,000 Americans, primarily African American, Hispanic and Asian women between the ages of 15 and 45, develop lupus each year, with an estimated two million Americans currently living with some form of lupus. While most cases are mild and only affect a few organs, the disease can be more severe and even life-threatening.

“A lot of people don’t know that lupus can be fatal, and even when it isn’t, medication truly helps improve the quality of life for patients. New medications are developed as a result of research but many patients are reluctant to participate in studies," said Cynthia Aranow, Rheumatology Specialist at Jamaica Hospital’s Lupus Center and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. “Most are unaware of the opportunities that exist and that the fact that it isn’t always invasive."

Clinical research consists of three types of research—clinical trials, observational studies, and translational studies. All research projects must be approved by an Institutional Review Board that will assess the purpose, potential risks and benefits of the research. All individuals considering participation in research must go through a consent process prior to participation.

Clinical trials are developed to test new medications or existing medications that are already approved in a different disease.

Observational studies do not include any new medications; patients are simply followed throughout their regular treatment. Information regarding their medical history, demographics, education, and socioeconomic status are collected and used to determine how gender, age, environment and ethnicity affect outcomes of lupus patients. In addition, observational studies provide information on long-term effects of medication. All information collected in these studies is de-identified so that it is difficult for information to be linked directly to an individual patient.

Translational studies involve laboratory experiments, clinical assessments, and sometimes imaging studies. Immune cells and proteins, taken from blood samples, are examined in the research laboratory. This area of research provides scientific information that can help researchers understand how lupus affects the immune system, as well as develop new treatments aimed at correcting any abnormalities. These types of studies can also include genetic testing, which helps researchers understand why some individuals are at higher risk for developing lupus than others.

Jamaica Hospital’s Lupus Center, located at the MediSys Family Care Center in St. Albans, provides specialized, state-of-the-art medical care to patients diagnosed with lupus or those who may have been told they may have lupus. In addition to providing patients with the latest information on medical advances and educating patients about diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment, patients also have the option to participate in clinical research.

“Through research, we’ve been able to identify abnormalities in the immune system of lupus patients and. this has been possible because of technology but most importantly, the help of lupus patients," said Dr. Mackay.

Aranow added: “Each contribution, whether it is information in an observational study, a tube of blood for a translational study, or participation in a clinical trial, is a step towards better treatment and possibly a cure."

Drs. Aranow and Mackay acknowledge the importance of clinical research and always put the safety of lupus patients first. Because there are associated risks with clinical trials of new medications, they stress that everyone is not a suitable candidate for this type of research. However, there is little to no risk involved with participation in Observational and Translational studies. All patients are encouraged to participate in these types of studies. Participation generally leads to increased awareness and knowledge which work together to help patients feel empowered and that their contributions are helping to fight this disease that can be so debilitating.

For more information about lupus or to participate in clinical research, please contact Jamaica Hospital’s Lupus Center at 718-206-9888 or The Feinstein Institute Lupus Hotline at 877-33 LUPUS (877-335-8787).

Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s mission is to serve patients and the community in a way that is second to none. JHMC serves a population greater than 1.2 million in Queens and eastern Brooklyn. The Lupus Center is part of a comprehensive network of Ambulatory Care Centers, developed by JHMC, known as the MediSys Family Health Care Network. The MediSys Centers treated approximately 360,000 patients last year. For additional information on the Lupus Center, call 718-206-6020.

The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is a unique, disease-oriented biomedical research institution dedicated to advancing science, shaping medicine and making a difference in people’s lives. Located in Manhasset, NY, The Feinstein Institute is an integral part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System and one of the fastest-growing biomedical research institutes in the country. For additional information on the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, call 516-562-3467.
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