-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) -- A drug that is currently
prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis also may be beneficial for
patients with a common form of kidney disease that is difficult to
treat and often leads to kidney failure, according to a small new
Researchers said they also identified a way to help determine
which patients would be most likely to benefit from the drug.
The condition, called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS),
causes scar tissue to form in the kidneys' filtering units. Most
people affected by the disease are also obese or have high blood
pressure or diabetes. Although steroids and certain drugs that
suppress the immune system help some people with FSGS, these
treatments have long-term side effects that may outweigh the drug's
benefits, the researchers said.
"We identified abatacept as the first personalized, targeted treatment for kidney disease and specifically for FSGS, a devastating and largely untreatable disease," study senior author Dr. Peter Mundel, of the nephrology division at the Massachusetts General Hospital department of medicine, said in a hospital news release.
A team of researchers, led by scientists at Mass General,
examined the effects of abatacept on five patients with FSGS. The
investigators found that the drug, which is approved by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration to treat rheumatoid arthritis and sold
under the brand name Orencia, prevented four of the patients from
losing a transplanted kidney to the condition.
One of these patients remained in remission for three years
following one dose of the drug. Another remained in remission for
four years. The other two participants needed a second dose of the
drug after a few weeks, after which time one of the patients went
into remission for 10 months and the other for 12 months, according
to the report.
The study also showed that another patient with a
treatment-resistant form of the disease who was at high risk for
kidney failure went into remission for the first time in more than
a year after being treated with the drug. Although the patient
still takes a monthly dose of the drug, the researchers said the
patient has resumed normal daily activities and no longer needs
high-dose steroids and drugs that suppress the immune system, which
can increase the risk for kidney failure.
The study authors said more research is needed, but their
findings suggest that Orencia shows promise as an effective
treatment for certain forms of kidney disease.
The study was published online Nov. 8 in the
New England Journal of Medicine. The findings also were
scheduled to be presented Friday at the annual meeting of the
American Society for Nephrology in Atlanta.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about
detection and treatment of kidney disease.
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