Promising News from Major Medical Meeting, EULAR

Updated June 5, 2020

One of the largest meetings for rheumatologists went virtual this year to enable scientists from around the world to share their latest findings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. EULAR, the e-Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, runs June 3 -6, and LRA is pleased to share promising results from clinical trials of several potential treatments for lupus and lupus nephritis.

Voclosporin

The investigational therapeutic voclosporin significantly improved kidney response (40 percent versus 22.5 percent of those given placebo) according to data from the Phase 3 AURORA trial presented at EULAR.  The benefits were seen among patients regardless of age, sex, race, severity of illness and previous use of treatment with mycophenolate mofetil (commonly known as CellCept).  Investigators noted that voclosporin worked equally well among Hispanic/Latino patients.

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Anifrolumab

Positive data from two clinical trials on the use of investigational medication anifrolumab as a potential treatment for people with lupus were presented by LRA grantee Dr. Eric Morand. Anifrolumab is a novel drug in development by AstraZeneca that works by blocking proteins produced by the immune system called type I interferons that promote inflammation – an area of research that LRA investigators pioneered.

In both trials, nearly half of patients improved with anifrolumab treatment. Most notably, these responses were seen from two months after starting treatment and sustained throughout the one year studied.

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Belimumab (Benlysta)

Results of a Phase 3 trial showed that GSK’s drug Benlysta plus standard treatment significantly improved kidney function among 43 percent of patients compared with standard treatment plus placebo (32 percent), As reported by the lead researcher Dr. Richard Furie, the study called BLISS-LN looked at 448 patients with lupus nephritis over 104 weeks. BLISS-LN is the largest lupus nephritis study conducted to date.

Although belimumab is already approved by the U.S. FDA to treat systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), it had not been tested in patients specifically for lupus nephritis and has not yet been approved for this use. The BLISS-LN trial is the last stage in clinical development before GSK submits its data with a formal request for the FDA to approve the drug as a new treatment for lupus nephritis.

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Baricitinib

Lilly presented analyses from an investigational trial evaluating baricitinib (also known by the brand name Olumianti ®) in patients with SLE. Data from its Phase 2 randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind JAHH study will be highlighted, which observed whether or not SLE patients experienced changes in their levels of cytokines when being treated with the 4-mg dose of baricitinib.  In lupus, the immune system releases chemical messengers called cytokines that cause organ-damaging inflammation.

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BIIB059

Biogen Inc. presented positive data from the four-month Phase 2 LILAC study of their investigational drug BIIB059 as a potential treatment for cutaneous lupus erythematosus (lupus affecting the skin) and systemic lupus erythematosus with active joint and skin manifestations. People receiving BIIB059 at doses of 50 mg, 150 mg and 450 mg experienced 38.8 percent, 47.9 percent and 42.5 percent reduction of skin disease activity according to a standard measurement tool. Investigators concluded that the safety and tolerability results support continued development of BIIB059.

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NKTR-358

Results of a Phase 1b study presented at EULAR showed that Nektar Therapeutics’ investigational drug NKTR-358 was safe and well-tolerated at various doses among patients with mild to moderate systemic lupus erythematosus.  NKTR-358 also increased regulatory T cells called Tregs to varying degrees depending on the dose. According to Nektar, “NKTR-358 is designed to correct an underlying immune system imbalance in patients with autoimmune conditions” known as T regulatory (Treg) cells. NKTR-358 stimulates production of these Treg cells and increases their ability to inhibit overactive immune cells. Researchers concluded that these results provide support for continued testing of NKTR-358 for SLE and other inflammatory diseases.

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Visit LupusResearch.org for more updates of important research presented at EULAR.