Free Education Session Targets Lupus Patients, Their Families

September 26, 2008

Lupus affects close to one and a half to two million people nationwide; 90 percent are women, who are most often stricken in their childbearing years.

Patients affected by lupus, along with their families and friends, are invited to the University of Rochester Medical Center’s free patient education day on Saturday, Oct. 11.

Held from 12:30 to 4 p.m., the afternoon features doctors and nurses from URMC’s lupus clinic discussing how the disease affects the body – specifically, the skin and nervous system. Other topics include the value of a carefully balanced diet, the promise of innovative clinical trials underway in Rochester, and updates on basic research conducted in the University’s NIH-funded Autoimmunity Center of Excellence, which may spawn new approaches for better management of the disease. A patient discussion panel will offer a glimpse into the real-life experiences of people coping with the disease. To reserve your place, please call Janet DiMora at (585) 273-4670.

Lupus, like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, is an autoimmune disease in which the body fails to differentiate between itself and dangerous invaders. Rather than just battling viruses and other harmful foreign materials, it erroneously churns out “auto-antibodies” directed at its own cells and tissues. As a result, lupus sufferers can experience inflammation, pain and ultimately, damage, to their joints, skin, blood, and even critical organs such as the heart, kidneys and brain.

“Early diagnosis is critical,” said Jennifer Anolik, M.D., Ph.D., a physician in the Division of Allergy/Immunology and Rheumatology and the event’s organizer. “When patients are connected with the proper specialists, we can treat earlier, relieve some symptoms sooner, and sometimes, in the more severe cases, we can even help prevent irreversible organ damage.”

Lupus affects close to one and a half to two million people nationwide; 90 percent of are women, who are most often stricken in their childbearing years. By and large, most people find it to be a controllable disease – perhaps experiencing fatigue, joint pain, or a rash, for instance, but otherwise managing well between medicine and consistent monitoring by their doctors. A smaller set of patients, however, do suffer a more extreme disease course, sometimes facing life-threatening problems. Limited epidemiological research estimates that, nationwide, close to 16,000 new lupus cases are diagnosed each year.

Anolik and her colleagues, rheumatologists Iñaki Sanz, M.D., and R. John Looney, M.D., not only treat 400 lupus patients throughout Western New York – they also are in hot pursuit of some of the nation’s most promising treatments. In a small pilot study, the team discovered that that the cancer drug rituximab, approved to treat lymphoma, nearly eradicated lupus symptoms in some patients who had been suffering for years. Better yet, rituximab selectively targets B-cells – key immune cells – and this fine-tuned approach carries few side effects. Other lupus drugs, by comparison, impact the immune system more broadly and can be rife with troubles like infertility, osteoporosis, and even tumors.

“A multi-center national trial investigating rituximab’s benefit for lupus patients has just wrapped up, and results are being analyzed even now,” Anolik said. “Interest in lupus research has really exploded, and this coming decade looks promising. We’re optimistic that better treatments are on the horizon, and are proud that we can grant our patients exclusive access to potential new therapies through our partnership with the nationwide Lupus Clinical Trials Consortium, which Dr. Looney leads here at URMC.”

Later in the fall, Anolik’s team will also invite renowned nephrologist Gerald Appel, M.D., to Rochester. Appel, a professor of Clinical Medicine at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center, will lecture on kidney health (especially as it relates to lupus patients) at a physician education seminar targeting rheumatologists and nephrologists alike. To be kept informed as details solidify, please contact Janet DiMora at (585) 273-4670.

For more information on lupus, or the University’s related specialty clinics, visit www.urmc.rochester.edu/medicine/air/SpecialtyClinics.aspx, or call Shirley Parks at (585) 341-7900 or Emily Cushing at (585) 275-7167.
 

For Media Inquiries:
Becky Jones
(585)275-8490
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