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A drug originally developed to help cancer patients has been found effective in the treatment of a common kidney disease.
Rituximab depletes B-lymphocyte cells, which are responsible for producing the damaging autoantibodies of membranous nephropathy, one of the most common forms of immune-mediated kidney disease. The disease impairs kidney function, which can lead to kidney failure in 30-40% of sufferers.
A study to be published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology (CJASN) in November shows that out of 50 patients treated with Rituximab, ten achieved complete remission from the disease.
Until now, the only treatment option available for membranous nephropathy has been immunosuppressive drugs, which inhibit the production of the damaging antibodies. But these drugs have been found to be inconsistent and can suppress the immune system, leaving patients more susceptible to illnesses and diseases.
Piero Ruggenenti, MD, of the Negri Bergamo Laboratories in Bergamo, Italy conducted the study. He said, “This represents the first demonstration that kidney injury in membranous nephropathy can regress after selective depletion of B cells.”
However, the study remains cautious as to whether the treatment would be applicable to other similar kidney conditions. It states “Long-term protection from renal function loss and the potentially life-threatening complications… remains to be established.”