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    New Drugs Hold Promise for Treating Autoimmune Diseases

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    "The most important message is that lupus is relatively common and most patients do reasonably well," says Harry Spiera, MD, clinical professor of medicine and division of rheumatology at Mount Sinai Medical center. "We have taken a lot of baby steps and we are waiting for a giant steps like Jonas Salk made when he discovered the polio vaccine."

    Spiera predicts that scientists will make such a giant step in the next 10-20 years.

    All autoimmune diseases may be identical from a scientific standpoint, so "if we do not look at these diseases in total, like we do cancer, we will never have a cure; we will only have therapies," says Virginia Ladd, president and executive director of American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA).

    A bill now before Congress asks the National Institutes of Health to establish an autoimmune disease office as the NIH has for AIDS and cancer. Such an office could fund and conduct research on all autoimmune diseases, Ladd says.

    For more information on autoimmune diseases, visit the AARDA web site (http://www.aarda.org).

    Vital Information:

    • Autoimmune diseases, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, occur when the body's immune system turns on itself.
    • New drug treatments that aim to attack the underlying molecular causes of the disease are available for some autoimmune diseases, and have shown preliminary success.
    • Some people would like to see the establishment of an office within the NIH dedicated to the study of autoimmune diseases, because they may all stem from the same biological cause.
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