Autoimmune Diseases

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Our Expertise

Patients with autoimmune diseases may be seen at SCCA , UW Medical Center, or Seattle Children’s, depending upon their age and diagnosis.

Each person's immune system is unique and treatment varies from person to person. Treatment usually includes medications to alleviate symptoms, whether it be simply non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, to reduce symptoms depending on the specific disease, or drugs like Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) or Azathioprine (Imuran) to suppress or slow down the immune system and thus slow down progression of the disease. Some may even be treated with a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant, which occurs at SCCA’s Transplant Clinic.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Hutchinson Center), an SCCA parent organization, is taking the lead on several fronts in treating autoimmune diseases and has developed clinical trials using stem cell transplantation for treating severe autoimmune diseases. 

Test for Lupus

Hutchinson Center scientists have developed a test for lupus that will help physicians make more accurate diagnostic and prognostic decisions for patients and therefore help those patients get appropriate treatment. Diagnosis for this disease is complex due to the similarity of symptoms with other autoimmune diseases. In an experiment, Mark Roth, a basic science investigator at Hutchinson Center, and, Karla Neugebauer, a former post doctoral fellow in his lab, discovered that lupus patients make antibodies to SR proteins, a family of splicing proteins discovered by the lab. Hutchinson Center has filed for patent protection on this assay system. A diagnostic kit based on Roth's assay will identify a population of 50 to 70 percent of lupus patients who react positively to SR proteins. To bring this work to the benefit of the public, Hutchinson Center researchers spent two years improving the test kit using the rigorous guidelines established by the Food and Drug Administration, which gave its consent for U.S. distribution in 2002.

Genetic Research

Hutchinson Center is also leading a global team to accelerate the investigation of immune-related genes. A cluster of nearly 220 genes known as the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) gene complex holds clues to these and other medical issues. In search of answers, the National Institutes of Health launched a $20 million initiative in 2001 to catalog the HLA gene complex. The effort among 200 laboratories in more than 70 countries is lead by Hutchinson Center's Dr. John Hansen. The group will set up a centralized HLA gene database. For patients, the benefits include finding better matches for bone-marrow transplant patients. 

If your condition is one that requires a bone-marrow transplant, be sure to visit the Bone Marrow Transplant section.