ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Mayo Clinic researchers have shown that an immunosuppressive drug used in organ transplant cases is effective in reducing flare-ups in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE results in inflammation of connective tissues and can involve the skin, joints and kidneys. Its cause is unknown. The findings were announced today at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Boston.
“Our findings show this therapy reduces lupus flares overall and is especially effective in reducing severe flares by roughly half,” says Mayo rheumatologist Kevin Moder, M.D., who led the research.
The research team evaluated mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) to see if it would reduce the number of flares in SLE, which is both chronic and relapsing.
In the retrospective study, researchers studied 88 patients treated with MMF at Mayo Clinic over a two-year period. They also studied patient histories and data on lupus flares going back two years. The patients, whose average age was 44, had lupus for an average of 10 years. The majority of participants were women.
Before the MMF, lupus flares in the group totaled 155 compared to 99 after treatment. For severe flares, the improvement was even more dramatic, from 98 to 54.
Even with a significant reduction in use of the anti-inflammatory drug prednisone -- which many were also taking -- the MMF treatment significantly reduced flares.
The research was supported by Aspreva Pharmacuticals. Others on the Mayo Clinic team included Carlotta Nannini, M.D.; Cynthia Crowson; and Eric Matteson, M.D.
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