Feinstein Institute launches groundbreaking clinical trial for new lupus medication

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Feinstein Institute of Medical Research's Dr. Meggan Mackay will examine the effects of JBT-101 on musculoskeletal pain in lupus patients. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

A group of researchers at Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research are leading a nationwide clinical trial to test a potential medication for lupus patients.

Dr. Meggan Mackay, the lead researcher for the trial, will examine the effects of JBT-101, a synthetic cannabinoid derivative with no psychotropic effects for the treatment of joint inflammation in lupus patients.

If proven effective, Mackay said, the drug could provide lupus patients with an alternative to the prescription immunosuppressant therapies currently available like prednisone, which are both costly and can cause a host of side effects.

“My hope is this particular drug, because of its strong anti-inflammation effects, could replace prednisone, which unfortunately a lot of our patients currently take,” Mackay said.

Mackay said the drug has a similar molecular structure to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main component of marijuana, but it will not cause a high like marijuana and will not affect brain function.

The test drug, which was made in a lab by Corbus Pharmaceuticals, is designed to activate receptors on immune cells and could decrease inflammation without the side effects of many anti-inflammation treatments.

Beyond the trial, Mackay said the study would also be used to research the molecular pathways to see what the drug is actually doing to the inflammatory proteins.

“That’s fairly unique because the big pharmaceutical companies don’t do that,” Mackay said. “They will look at some parameters, but not routinely.”

The trial, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will enroll 100 participants for about two years at 15 research sites across the country, including at the Feinstein Institute.

Lupus affects approximately 1.5 million Americans and causes the immune system to lose the ability to differentiate between foreign agents and healthy tissue. When the immune system becomes hyperactive, it causes inflammation and damages joints.

Lupus patients who also suffer from active arthritis are welcome to participate in the trials, which will take about five months per patient, Mackay said.

If you are an adult with lupus and active joint disease with at least moderate pain and are interested in finding out more about this clinical trial, contact Andrew Shaw at 516-562-2591 or Latchmin Persaud at 516-562-3814.

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