A new study funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) will be using statins--drugs used to lower LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol levels)--to test their effects against fat buildup in the blood vessels of children with lupus. Pediatric patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are sometimes affected by this fat buildup, also called atherosclerosis. In SLE, inflammation and damage to various body tissues can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and the brain.
Laura Schanberg, M.D. (Duke University Medical Center) and Christy Sandborg, M.D. (Stanford University) and their colleagues are conducting this five-year study, known as the APPLE (Atherosclerosis Prevention in Pediatric Lupus Erythematosus) trial, which will test 280 children diagnosed with SLE. The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial will randomize patients to receive either statins or a placebo for 36 months. Atherosclerosis will be measured at baseline and at six-month intervals using ultrasound imaging. The researchers hope that the statin treatment will have preventive effects on the arterial fat buildup that may occur in young lupus patients.
The study is being carried out in collaboration with the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance.
SLE is a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease. Women are much more likely to have the disease than men, and prevalence is higher among African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans than Caucasians.