According to an article in the March '08 Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, researchers in Sweden report that people with severe lupus that doesn't respond to "conventional treatment" -- whatever the hell that is -- may be helped with a cocktail of two potent drugs.
(I don't know why I'm using that expression "drug cocktail". It has always seemed belittling in some way to the drugs or to the people who discovered that it worked or to the people who need it to treat their disease. ick!)
In this case the happy mix is two drugs: rituximab, known as Rituxan or MabThera, which targets the B cells of the immune system, and cyclophosphamide, a strong immune suppressant drug.
A fellow named Ronald F. van Vollenhoven, M.D. and his colleagues at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden published an article in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases that B cell depleting therapy with rituxan has "shown encouraging results in patients with SLE." Dryly stated, perhaps, but still good news.
They say that they oberved 16 female patients who had not responded to conventional immunosuppressive therapy. In the study these women were given weekly infusions of rituximab for 4 weeks but with the first and last infusion being combined with cyclophosphamide and a steroid. (The steroid, like the olive in a martini, was no doubt mainly for visual effect.)
After 6 months, there was a significant decrease in a standard measure of SLE severity, and all but three patients showed at least a 50 percent improvement in disease severity. And to top it all off nine of the patients' lupus actually went into remission. OK; that is awesome!
The researchers emphasize that their asses should, at all times remain covered and, thus "the results should not be generalized to all SLE patients." OK; ok; fine. But they leave us with wonderful hope with the conclusion that "for patients with severe SLE who have failed to respond to conventional treatment, the combination of rituximab and cyclophosphamide can provide a new therapeutic alternative." Again with the dry delivery; but the news is swesome! (That's "awesome" x 1.26.)