The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Annual Meeting always promises exciting news in lupus science, and this year was no exception. From November 10th to 14th, global experts in lupus research, treatment, care and advocacy met to share the latest news and outline future directions for the field.
The Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) was a proud supporter of several studies presented at this year’s ACR Convergence. Our Inside Lupus Research team covered the conference and we’ve rounded up the top highlights for you below.
Lupus Treatment News
2022 was a year of tremendous advances in lupus drug development, from new therapies to treatment strategies for specific populations. For example, Dr. Jane Salmon presented preliminary research from her LFA-supported IMPACT study, which demonstrated the safety of certolizumab during pregnancy in women with or without lupus who have a lupus anticoagulant in the blood or antiphospholipid syndrome.
Other exciting news about treating lupus included:
- Car-T cell therapy: Genetically modified cells called CAR-T cells are showing promising results for people with severe lupus who are unresponsive to standard treatment. The procedure was well tolerated by study participants, and early results suggest it can result in long-term, drug-free remission.
- Hydroxychloroquine: The drug continues to prove an effective treatment for lupus. Higher mean annual doses were associated with lower disease activity scores and a lower incidence of cardiac events and stroke.
- Anifrolumab: Pooled data from two phase 3 drug trials showed that nearly 10% of people treated with anifrolumab (Saphnelo) achieved remission, emphasizing that it’s possible to achieve periods with few or no symptoms with lupus.
- Voclosporin: Recent data show that Hispanic and Hispanic people with lupus respond well to voclosporin (Lupkynis). The researchers presented an analysis of the drug’s effectiveness within this population, reporting faster response and sustained benefits for up to 3 years.
- Deucravacitinib: The drug is now moving into a Phase 3 study after Phase 2 data showed it is safe, well-tolerated and effective in reducing disease activity in people with active systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
- Cenerimod: Results from the phase 2 study found that the drug was generally well tolerated in people with moderate to severe SLE.
- Telitacicept: The novel drug for the treatment of SLE met its Phase 3 study endpoints when used in combination with standard therapy, significantly outperforming placebo and showing that it was well tolerated by study participants.
Patient-centered research by LFA and partners
LFA shared new research and program insights from its online community, LupusConnect™. The virtual forum provides a space where people living with lupus and their loved ones can connect with like-minded peers to share experiences, find emotional support, and discuss practical insights to address the day-to-day challenges of the disease.
In the summary, LupusConnect: A 24/7 Online Lupus Support Community, LFA investigators presented popular topics discussed by more than 18,000 community members with a self-reported connection to lupus from 2017-2022. US members were lupus, pain and symptom(s). During the pandemic, membership and community engagement have remained strong, underscoring the need for connection within the lupus community.
LFA also shared research in partnership with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) and ACR. This ongoing collaboration aims to update the SLE Organ Damage Index, which is a tool used to predict the development of damage in people with lupus. The current project focuses on identifying specific measures that reflect organ damage in adults, young adults, and children living with lupus. Hundreds of lupus experts from around the world have now identified 220 unique measurements for 14 organ systems, providing future researchers and healthcare professionals with an even more robust system to accurately predict damage increment. The project shows the importance of involving large, diverse groups in such processes, to ensure an inclusive breadth of viewpoints is taken into account.
As a patient-centric advocacy group, the LFA has also worked on the Treatment Response Measure for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (TRM-SLE) project, which provides guidance for the development of a new clinician-reported outcome measure for clinical lupus trials and ensures that the patient voice is integrated . dr Kathryn Connelly, who is co-leading the work, discussed the project and how it aims to improve treatment benefit measurement in future lupus studies.
Novel Approaches for Lupus Research & Care
Much of the research shared at this year’s conference explored new ways of approaching lupus science and patient education, care and education. A study has shown that telemedicine (remote medical care) can be an effective way for people with lupus to seek help, resulting in fewer missed doctor appointments and increased lab use. The results suggest that telemedicine could be a potential strategy to improve continuity of care within the lupus community, particularly for people with barriers to accessing healthcare.
In fact, a separate study evaluated the long-distance impact of adapting the Treatment and Education Approach for Childhood-Onset Lupus (TEACH) program. Researchers found that the remote format promoted high retention rates, and children who completed the program benefited from reductions in fatigue, mood symptoms, and pain.
The novel genomics-based web tool MyPROSLE was presented at the conference. This cutting-edge tool analyzes various data, including the genetic information of people with lupus, and researchers showed that disorders in specific gene groups are strongly associated with specific lupus symptoms and areas of disease activity. The tool aims to help physicians determine more individually tailored treatment options for every patient.
Health differences in lupus
Science continues to show that there are significant gaps in disease management and outcomes along racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines. One study found that blacks with lupus were less likely to take medication as needed. Compared to Whites with lupus, Blacks faced more obstacles in adhering to their prescribed medication regimen and reported greater distrust of medication.
Another study found that people with SLE and vulnerable socioeconomic and home environments were more likely to be prescribed higher doses of prednisone, a drug that may contribute to a higher burden of harm. Socioeconomic status was measured by income, poverty, employment, and education; and household composition was measured by age, single parent, and disability.
The latest research urgently emphasizes the need for more strategically focused efforts to improve access to care, treatment and disease management education in underserved and underrepresented communities.
We’re excited to be part of the energy and passion that drives the lupus community to achieve better treatments, disease outcomes and ultimately a cure. Keep your finger on the pulse of evolving and life-changing lupus research and follow the Lupus Foundation of America’s Inside Lupus Research for breaking news and important updates.