"It's a horse race," Katz said. "There are now 27 drug companies that are working on new lupus medicine. And the new therapies are more targeted therapies. They're not immune tranquilizers."
In fact, a new lupus information Web site -- established by the LRI this past May -- highlights 15 research trials that are currently under way. Many of the studies are for effective drugs with fewer side effects.
"I think one of the reasons that there is a measure of excitement in lupus and in other complex diseases that we've been confronted with for a long time is the advent of a whole series of new molecular tools that allow us to address basic issues," Salk molecular neurobiology professor Greg E. Lemke told reporters.
He pointed especially to the sequencing of the human genome and the use of genetically altered animal models as innovations that are boosting lupus research.
In one innovation, researchers led by Philip Low, of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., say they've developed what could be a vaccine against lupus. Reporting in the Sept./Oct. issue of Molecular Pharmaceutics, the team said the shot reduced disease, cut down on kidney damage and extended the survival of laboratory mice with the illness.
This and other new research is raising expectations, the researchers said.
"Our goal should be trying to get remission in patients with lupus," UCLA's Dr. Bevra Hahn, chief of rheumatology in the School of Medicine, noted during the teleconference. "Patients all tend to accept what I call 'simmering' disease. There is fatigue, the patient never feels good, but they're not in danger, and we accept that as OK. I think it's time for both people who have the disease and physicians who treat them to do better."
Everyone agreed that heeding this advice will require an enormous public support --both in terms of continued financial investment an
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