In the News

Another positive step in the treatment of lupus patients

QIMR Berghofer Director and CEO Professor Fabienne Mackay has welcomed results of a Phase 3 clinical trial that offers new hope to lupus patients.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic inflammatory disease caused when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. The most common and major cause of illness and death for SLE patients is lupus nephritis, which causes kidney inflammation.

The BLISS-LN Phase 3 clinical trial has shown the drug belimumab inhibits the B-cell activating factor (BAFF) in the blood of adult patients with lupus nephritis and significantly improves their kidney function.

Professor Mackay was the first to discover and publish the role of the BAFF factor in SLE in 1999. Her discovery prompted researchers to develop belimumab to inhibit the BAFF protein to treat the autoimmune disease.

Professor Mackay, who was not involved in the BLISS-LN Phase 3 trial, said the results were promising for patients with lupus nephritis.

“Belimumab has been used for some years now to treat lupus patients, but its safety and efficacy to treat patients with severe, acute lupus nephritis wasn’t established,” Professor Mackay said.

“This study shows belimumab can also be used effectively to target the BAFF factor for these patients in combination with their regular treatment, and is another important step in our understanding of how we can treat this disease.”

Professor Mackay has published the world’s most highly cited work on BAFF. Her landmark study on the role of BAFF in SLE has been cited more than 1000 times.

The data from the BLISS-LN Phase 3 trial has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.