Biological treatments for systemic lupus erythematosus
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There have been many recent advances in therapeutic approaches to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The roles of cyclophosphamide, hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate and hormonal treatments in the management of SLE have been investigated in recent randomised controlled trials (1). However, although these pharmacological agents have a role to play in some patients with lupus, broad based effects have led to problems with side effects and adverse reactions. For this reason, more specific therapies are urgently required. Such strategies currently under evaluation include altering the cytokine balance, reducing T cell activation and inducing tolerance, blocking T cell costimulatory molecules, reducing auto-antibody production from B cells, targetting specific genes and stem cell transplantation. These are known as "biological" treatments as their aim is to alter patho-physiological processes occurring in the diseased state. This review will focus on the biological therapies currently under investigation-with particular attention on the cytokine-directed therapies.
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