The immunotherapy it is one of the most promising branches of medical science today. One of the clearest examples is CAR-T therapy: a strategy that consists of modifying the patient’s white blood cells so that they destroy the disease being fought. So far, he has achieved complete remissions from various blood cancers.
Recently, therapy CAR-T It has demonstrated its usefulness against another totally different class of diseases: autoimmune diseases, and more specifically systemic lupus erythematosus. As explained in an article in the prestigious scientific media Natural Medicine, A team of scientists from the University Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany) has so far achieved remission of symptoms in five patients using this method.
Complete remission of symptoms
The nature of lupus is radically different from that of tumors. In this case, what happens is that the organism, in a way, attacks itself: the immune system produces antibodies against proteins present on the surface of the body’s cells. In this case, therefore, the objective of genetically modifying the immune cells (in CAR-T, T lymphocytes) was to attack the cells that produce said antibodies.
For the moment, the treatment has succeeded in completely eliminating the lupus symptoms in five patients who did not respond to currently available treatments for the disease (which focus primarily on symptom control).
Of course, these are very promising results, but we must take into account some issues that still distance CAR-T therapies from common use. On the one hand, the efficacy of CAR-T therapy against lupus will need to be demonstrated in more clinical trials before it can be definitively approved for use. On the other hand, and taking into account the procedure, it requires very specific technical and material means that are not available everywhere. It is also a very expensive treatment.
Mackensen, A., Müller, F., Mougiakakos, D. et al. Anti-CD19 CAR T cell therapy for refractory systemic lupus erythematosus. NatMed (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-022-02017-5