Researchers find two potential lupus vax treatments

After 5 decades without a new treatment, lupus patients got a reprieve in March with Human Genome Sciences' Benlysta. But doctors believe there are still better options down the pipeline for patients with the autoimmune disease. Two recent studies have brought the promise of more treatment options in the form of vaccines.

In a 28-person study, researchers focused on interferon alpha, a protein that can determine the severity of lupus. They administered four doses of a vaccine against the protein (manufactured by Neovacs), which caused an antibody response. "This is an early, first step. It appears to be safe. And, the fact that they could show that they could inhibit or down-regulate the interferon signature is very promising," said Dr. Cynthia Aranow, from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, according to USA Today.

The other study looked at patients with mild to no lupus activity who were injected with vitamin D for four weeks, followed by monthly doses for 6 months. According to the researchers, the results were promising; none of the 24 patients developed kidney stones or high calcium levels in their bloodstreams, and the treatment boosted their positive immune responses. The treatment also lowered the responses from cells that may play a part in lupus activity.

"It's exciting to see that they were able to reverse some of the immunologic dysfunction associated with lupus, but we need a large randomized clinical trial to confirm this," Aranow said, according to USA Today.

Still, there's much more work to be done. Neither study could determine if the treatments had a clinical response. And the costs of commercially expanding the treatments could be prohibitive.

- check out the USA Today piece