Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is an autoimmune condition that causes the inflammation of large and medium sized blood vessels. An alternative name for this condition is “Temporal Arteritis” as the blood vessels in the temple area of the head (sides of the forehead) are commonly affected. The “giant” cells are abnormal large cells that develop in the wall of the inflamed arteries. GCA is very rare in people younger than 50 years, and is more common in women and people of northern European descent. The cause of GCA is not known. The most common symptoms of GCA include headache, with severe pain and tenderness over the temples and the scalp, prominent blood vessels at the temples, and pain in the jaw or tongue when talking or chewing. Visual loss occurs in up to 20% of patients, and this may be related to late recognition.
Tocilizumab is a disease modifying drug that acts by blocking specific proteins that signal the inflammatory processes affecting blood vessels in GCA. It is currently licensed for the treatment of GCA in adults as a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection, but reactions at the place of injection include redness, itching and pain. It is anticipated that these reactions would be avoided if the drug was given as an intravenous infusion.
Belimumab is in clinical development for the treatment of adults with active lupus nephritis (LN) who are uncontrolled on current standard of care. LN is a complication affecting kidney function brought on by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a chronic autoimmune, inflammatory disease that affects different organs. Around a third of people suffering with SLE will develop LN. The kidney damage seen in LN occurs due to a person’s immune cells (B Cells) attacking their own kidneys which causes inflammation and affects overall kidney function. Current treatment involves suppression of the immune system and management of symptoms, but it is not always effective. If left untreated, LN can lead to kidney failure which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.