Lupus Nephritis: New Treatments


COLUMBUS, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire)—Lupus nephritis is the most common side effect of the autoimmune condition lupus. It’s the disease that caused actress and musician Selena Gomez to undergo a kidney transplant and raised public awareness of the condition. Now, after years with no new treatments, scientists say there are promising new drugs that can stop the kidney  damage, with fewer toxic side effects.

Four years ago, Diana Yeauger Espinoza was working to put herself through college and newly engaged, when she suddenly put on 25 pounds.

“I was working two jobs and I figured that the weight gain was due to the fact that I wasn’t at home. I was eating fast food,” Diana shared.

Finally, after working her shift at a local garden center, her legs swelled up and her heart rate skyrocketed. Diana was hospitalized as her kidneys shut down. Doctors diagnosed her with lupus nephritis.

“The treatment of lupus basically is to use fairly strong therapies that are effective but are associated with lots and lots of potential side effects,” said Brad H. Rovin, MD, nephrologist and director of the division of nephrology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

(Read Full Interview)

Dr. Rovin has been studying other new treatments. Diana enrolled in a trial of a drug that is now called Lupkynis. It’s a first-of-a-kind oral medication that patients take in addition to their other treatments. Dr. Rovin says a second drug, called Benlysta has also been FDA- approved for lupus nephritis.

“We now have a whole menu of new drugs that are being tested in lupus that are very exciting,” Dr. Rovin added.

After two years on Lupkynis, Diana says her kidney function improved. She’s feeling good and is now married.

“Just live a normal life, not have to worry about all these medications I have to take, not having to worry that I can’t go up a flight of stairs because my knee hurts,” Diana shared.

And not having to worry that she won’t be around for her husband.

According to research supported by the CDC, Asian and Hispanic women are more likely to be affected by the disease than white women. The FDA approved Lupkynis in January. Benlysta was approved in December of 2020.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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LUPUS NEPHRITIS BACKGROUND: Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases cause your immune system to attack your healthy cells. Lupus can affect many parts of the body. When your kidneys become affected, it is called lupus nephritis. Lupus nephritis happens when your immune system attacks your kidneys. The most severe kind of lupus nephritis is proliferative nephritis, which can cause permanent damage to your kidneys. Many experts believe the cause of lupus is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.


DIAGNOSING LUPUS NEPHRITIS: Only people who have lupus can have lupus nephritis. If your health care provider thinks that your lupus might be affecting your kidneys, they might order urine tests to look for blood or protein in your urine. Having blood or protein in your urine can be a sign that your kidneys are not working as well as they should. Your health care provider might also want you to have a blood test to check for the level of creatinine in your blood. Creatinine is a waste product caused by muscle activity. Having a high level of creatinine in your blood is also a sign that there’s a problem with your kidneys. If your blood and urine tests show that there might be a problem, your health care provider might want you to have a kidney biopsy to look for signs of lupus nephritis. A kidney biopsy is a procedure where your doctor takes a very small piece of your kidneys to look at it closely under a microscope. Your doctor checks it for signs of lupus nephritis, such as inflammation or scarring. Your health care providers may not always know if you have lupus nephritis right away. Symptoms of lupus nephritis can also look like symptoms of other diseases. It may take up to several years for you to get the right tests or diagnosis.


NEW LUPUS NEPHRITIS STUDIES: A trial sponsored by EMD Serono and conducted in part by the clinical trials network of Lupus Therapeutics tested an investigational drug Evobrutinib. Researchers thought Evobrutinib might provide benefits by thwarting B cells and stimulating helpful immune cells. The drug did not reduce the severity of symptoms. Another study conducted in part through the LuCIN asked whether immediate-release or delayed-release versions of the steroid prednisone, a widely used treatment for inflammation, were more effective at reducing morning fatigue, a common complaint in lupus patients. The results showed that fatigue declined no matter when the patients took prednisone; however, patients who took the delayed-release form of prednisone at night did not feel less fatigue the next morning than patients who waited to take the drug until they woke up. The large number of positive late-stage trials suggests that more promising treatments for lupus could be coming in 2021.





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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Brad H. Rovin, MD, Nephrologist and Director of the Division of Nephrology

Read the entire Q&A