More than 1.4 million Americans suffer from the autoimmune disease lupus. Traditional treatments do not always work for everyone and the side effects can be hard to endure. Now, patients may have a new option.
For scientists, the condition known as lupus is a mystery that has been hard to solve.
"The immune system, instead of attacking foreign things like viruses and bacteria, starts to affect the patient's own tissues," oncologist Rob Brodsky, M.D., of Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, tells Ivanhoe.
And lupus doesn't discriminate.
Lupus is not a cancer, but Dr. Brodsky and colleagues have found using high doses of a chemotherapy drug for four days is more effective than lower doses over long periods of time. The idea is to blast the lupus once, wipe out the abnormal immune system and allow the body to learn to function normally.
"So essentially the immune system is started over again from when the person was born," says Dr. Brodsky.
At age 15, Camille Khan was diagnosed with lupus. With her kidneys failing, she decided to go through the new procedure. She says, "I started to feel better mainly because my kidney function improved."