Highlights from the 22nd European Congress of Rheumatology
For more than twenty years, the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) annual conference has been Europe’s leading platform for sharing scientific discoveries and clinical updates about lupus and other rheumatic diseases. This year’s event proved as informative and inspiring as ever, with medical doctors and clinicians, scientists and pharmaceutical professionals presenting hundreds of virtual presentations and research posters over the four-day conference.
The Lupus Foundation of America and its Inside Lupus Research team covered the conference, bringing lupus warriors the latest research news and updates via Twitter. Conference highlights included:
Trial data for anifrolumab continue to show promise. New findings revealed at the conference show that compared to the placebo (a harmless pill used in trials for a comparison) the drug effectively improves both skin rash and arthritis – common and persistent problems in people with lupus. The drug is currently under review as a lupus treatment in the US, EU and Japan, and its potential approval is anticipated before the end of this year. Check out a new podcast on the phase II and phase III trials.
Researchers also offered encouraging updates for the treatment of skin disease in lupus. A Phase 2b clinical trial of iberdomide found the drug improves lupus skin disease in people with active lupus, particularly those with cutaneous lupus. Another study found rituximab produced favorable results in 75% of clinical trial participants.
In other treatment updates, belimumab (Benlysta) trials showed that physical functioning and fatigue improved in people with lupus after treatment with the therapy. Meanwhile, the BEAT-LUPUS trial demonstrated the combined effectiveness of rituximab and belimumab. Treatment with rituximab followed by belimumab proved to delay and decrease risk of severe flares. And, a new study on vocolosporin supports previous findings that the therapy may help protect kidney function for people with lupus when added to standard lupus nephritis (LN) treatment.
Lastly, early trial results for KZR-616 demonstrate the drug is safe and well-tolerated among people with lupus and LN. Results from the Phase 1b trial also show signs that the treatment effectively helps reduce disease activity in people with active lupus on stable background therapy and improved kidney function in the two study participants with LN. Phase 2 studies exploring the drug’s efficacy for LN treatment are ongoing.
Research shared at the conference also shed further light on how the disease can impact quality of life and highlighted areas where further research and support are needed.
One study demonstrated the link between lupus and mental health issues and the economic toll they can take. Of the nearly 7,800 people with lupus included in the study, more than one in three (35.7%) were diagnosed with a mental health disorder, like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or psychosis. Of the 336 people with LN in the study, more than one in four were diagnosed with a mental health disorder as well. And, people with lupus and co-occurring mental health disorders were more likely to have longer inpatient stays and more frequent outpatient visits than those not diagnosed with a mental health disorder, resulting in significantly higher overall healthcare costs for people with lupus or LN struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental issues.
Another study revealed a high level of disease activity and disease burden within the lupus population. Researchers assessed data from nearly 3,400 people with lupus across 13 different countries between the years 2013 and 2019. They found a quarter (25%) had at least one episode of high disease activity during the study period while nearly the same number of people (24%) never achieved the lupus low disease activity state. High disease activity was associated with more physician visits, higher average steroid dose, lower health-related quality of life and higher mortality.
The latest research presented at this year’s conference called attention to some of the most important areas in lupus research and care, highlighting both the exciting developments being made throughout the lupus community and the need to continue to do more.
Looking for more EULAR highlights? Listen to the latest Lupus Science & Medicine podcast for a post-conference recap of the event's biggest news with Dr. Ron van Vollenhoven, Lupus Science & Medicine's Editor in Chief.
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