> TREATMENTS FOR AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES
While there is no permanent cure for autoimmune diseases, treatments are available which can help relieve symptoms, decrease the risk of complications, and improve the patients’ ability to perform daily activities. To reduce the inflammation caused by autoimmune diseases, doctors often prescribe immunosuppressive medicines such as corticosteroids, in certain instances complemented with pain-relieving medicines. Clinical use of synthetic or biologic drugs that block various pathways and components of the immune system, such as cytokines, cell adhesion molecules, and co-stimulatory molecules, or delete entire immune cell populations has drastically changed the treatment of autoimmune diseases (Fugger et al., 2020).
Long-term treatments with high doses are often needed to maintain disease control, leaving the patient susceptible to life-threatening opportunistic infections and long-term risk of malignancy. The benefits of many of these drugs are counterbalanced by toxicity and serious side effect profiles. In addition, many patients are not responding optimally, if at all, to these therapies (Fugger et al., 2020). Thus, there has been a push for the development of more specific strategies that lower the risk of systemic immune suppression and improve tolerability.
The optimal therapy for autoimmunity would be one that achieves four main goals: (i) specifically targets the pathogenic cells and leaves the remainder of the immune system functioning normally; (ii) reestablishes immune tolerance that is stable over time, such that continuous or long-term therapy is not needed; (iii) has low toxicity and few side effects; and (iv) is overall cost-effective when compared to alternative approaches (Rosenblum MD et al, 2012).