Immune Tolerance Network offers key breakthrough in blood vessel disease

By Kristen Bole

Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD

Results of a clinical trial through the UCSF-sponsored Immune Tolerance Network may offer the first new treatment in 40 years for the devastating blood vessel disease known as anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis. The study, published online July 14 in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the drug rituximab offers the same benefits as the previous therapy, with fewer treatments and possible improvements for patients with relapses. The rare but severe autoimmune disease affects approximately 6,000 new patients in the United States each year and can result in organ damage in the airways, lungs and kidneys. The current standard of care is a cyclophosphamide-based regimen, which has been a life-saving therapy but which puts patients at risk of serious infection and cancer, as well as relapses after the therapy is discontinued.

The trial validates the promise of large-scale scientific collaborations such as the Immune Tolerance Network. Founded at UCSF in 1999 by current Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD, through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the network was created as a new paradigm in clinical research, designed to advance research more quickly into the clinic. The model uses open and inclusive collaborations, a cross-disciplinary emphasis on underlying mechanisms, a strong government and regulatory interface and mutually beneficial collaborations with industry. ITN is now an international consortium of some of the world’s foremost authorities on immune tolerance and conducts clinical trials of specialized immune tolerance therapies in three areas: organ transplant rejection; autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus and others; and the prevention and treatment of allergies and asthma. The current study was led by John Stone, MD, MPH, of Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, and Ulrich Specks, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn.

NIH News Release:
Immune Tolerance Network: