Study of Low-dose IL-2 Treatment for Lupus Achieves Significant Remission Rates
A recent study offers further evidence that low-dose IL-2 might be an effective and well tolerated treatment for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Researchers assessed 60 people with active SLE over 12 weeks and found that SLE remission rates were significantly better among study participants receiving low-dose IL-2 compared to the placebo group. Of those receiving the IL-2 treatment, 76.92% achieved partial remission and 53.85% achieved complete remission at the end of the trial period. Investigators observed no serious adverse events in the IL-2 group, though two cases of serious infection were observed in the placebo group.
Additionally, though the study was not specifically designed to study the effects of IL-2 treatment on lupus nephritis (LN), the study confirmed the therapeutic effects of the therapy on LN. Of the small proportion of study subjects with LN, just over half (53.85%) of the participants receiving low-dose IL-2 achieved complete remission compared to just 16.67% of those receiving the placebo.
IL-2 stands for interleukin-2 – a molecule that plays an integral role in the immune system. Defective IL-2 production contributes to the unbalanced immune system in SLE. Meanwhile, current SLE therapies rely heavily on immunosuppressants to reduce disease activity, which further disrupt the immune system and increase one’s risk of infection.
Early studies have suggested IL-2 may be an effective treatment for lupus without impairing immune response. However, this is the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the treatment. Not only do the study’s findings underscore the treatment’s effectiveness and safety, they also reveal new information about how the treatment works: both by expanding regulatory T cells (a type of white blood cell that protects against autoimmune disease), as suggested by previous research, and by expanding Natural Killer cells, which help control and prevent viral infections.
Learn about lupus and your risk of infections.