Cancer Drug Also Helps Lupus and Arthritis

OCTOBER 01, 2005

A recent study shows that the cancer drug rituximab may benefit lupus patients with central nervous system complications. Researchers claim that it is "a kinder, gentler form of treatment?with a low risk of side effects, compared to?high-dose steroids and chemotherapy," the standard treatments for the disease.

The 16-month study included 22 patients with lupus. More than 50% were given rituximab alone, another group took the drug along with steroids, and a third group took it with the chemotherapy agent cyclophosphamide. Sixteen of the patients showed significant improvement in their conditions. Brain scans showed improvements in adverse effects caused by the disease.

Another study showed rituximab to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis as well. This study included 465 men and women who had had arthritis for ~10 years. The results of the 24-week study showed that 2 different doses of rituximab were both effective in treating the disease, with the higher dose having the greatest effect. Researchers found that the drug targets a specific type of immune cell and helps control inflammation and pain in arthritis patients.