Leaps in Lupus Advancements

Hospital for Special Surgery scientists share advances

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

Hospital for Special Surgery physicians who focus on lupus, scleroderma and related conditions are traveling from New York City to Atlanta this week to share recent findings.

They will present their discoveries at the 74th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

Special Surgery investigators will present advances that may influence the future of clinical care. Topics include prevention strategies for helping orthopedic patients avoid falls, quality of life in children with lupus, understanding joint pain caused by a commonly used breast cancer medication, lupus-related kidney disease, an international summit to identify antiphospholipid syndrome research questions and innovations in providing personalized care for people with lupus.

"With our multidisciplinary team providing comprehensive medical care and patient education in the Mary Kirkland Center for Lupus Care at Hospital for Special Surgery, the patient is the number one focus," explained the Center's co-director Doruk Erkan, M.D., co-author of a poster to be presented at the meeting. "We are treating the patient as a whole, not just the disease."

At the meeting, the ACR will also honor three Hospital for Special Surgery faculty members with the designation of Master: Chief Scientific Officer Steven R. Goldring, M.D., Physician-in-Chief Emeritus Stephen A. Paget, M.D., and Attending Rheumatologist Joseph A. Markenson, M.D.

This recognition is one of the highest that the organization bestows. Eligible members are those age 65 and older who have made outstanding contributions to the rheumatology profession through academic achievements and service to patients and students. No more than 15 Master designations are awarded each year.

"It is remarkable that three rheumatologists from one institution would be honored by being named Masters," said Mary K. Crow, M.D., physician-in-chief and chair of the HSS Division of Rheumatology, who is also a past president of the ACR. "Each of these Special Surgery experts has significantly contributed to the field of rheumatology."

Dr. Goldring, who holds the St. Giles Chair at Special Surgery, oversees basic, clinical and translational research at the hospital and has been a leader in the field of bone remodeling research. Dr. Paget served as the hospital's physician-in-chief and chair of the Division of Rheumatology from 1995 to 2010, and today continues his longstanding research on the development and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and related conditions. Dr. Markenson has regularly been a lead investigator of studies and clinical trials on new drugs for people who have rheumatic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and lupus.

Also at this year's meeting, C. Ronald MacKenzie, M.D., associate attending rheumatologist at HSS, will be announced as the next chair of the ACR Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest. Ora B. Singer, M.D., a recent graduate of the HSS rheumatology fellowship program, will receive an ACR Distinguished Fellow Award, and Anant Vasudevan, a Yale University medical student who performed rheumatoid arthritis research at HSS, will receive an ACR Research and Education Foundation/Abbott Medical and Graduate Student Achievement Award.

Close to 200,000 people in the U.S. have Lupus, with women being affected nine times more than men. Women of Afro/Caribbean descent are affected three times more often than other ethnic groups. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that attacks multiple organ systems and connective tissues in the body, is incurable, but treatable, and most people with it will live a normal lifespan. The initial symptoms of Lupus are fever, joint pain and fatigue. About 30 percent of lupus patients have dermatologic symptoms, with 30 percent to 50 percent getting the characteristic butterfly shaped rash on the face. Another very serious complication is end stage renal disease (ESRD), and kidney transplants are common. Lupus can also be drug induced by quinidine, phenytoin (Dilantin), hydralazine (Apresoline), and procainamide (Pronestyl), but is fortunately reversible. Drugs used to treat lupus are frequently DMARDS (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) such as Humira, Rituxan, Remicade, Methotrexate, and Enbrel; Steroids and other immunosuppressants help reduce symptoms as well, with examples being Belimumab and Atacicept. Painkillers are common and often necessary. An ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) blood test is frequently used to diagnosis lupus.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 8, 2010
Last Updated:
March 8, 2011