AstraZeneca, Author Interviews, Rheumatology / 11.06.2020 Interview with: Richard Alan Furie, MD Professor, Center for Autoimmune, Musculoskeletal and Hematopoietic Diseases Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research Chief, Division of Rheumatology, Northwell Health Professor of Medicine, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine Hofstra/Northwell What is the background for this study? Response: It has been known for decades that type I interferons play a role in SLE pathogenesis, and therefore the burning question has been whether inhibitors of these pro-inflammatory cytokines would reduce SLE disease activity and could be used as a therapeutic.  There are several strategies for inhibiting the type I interferon pathway, but a conventional approach is to create an antibody against the target protein. The first few clinical trials in SLE evaluated monoclonal antibodies to alpha interferon.  Results were modest at best.  Since this approach only inhibited one (alpha) of five type I interferon subtypes, there were still four subtypes unaffected that could provoke inflammation.  A rather crucial piece of information is that all five subtypes bind to the same receptor.  Therefore, if the receptor is blocked as opposed to a single cytokine, the entire type I interferon family of proteins would be prevented from binding the receptor. This was accomplished with anifrolumab. The phase 2 study in SLE (known as MUSE), which yielded very robust results, was reported several years ago.  It served as a foundation for the phase 3 program, which consisted of two pivotal studies known as TULIP-1 and TULIP-2. Both studies were reported at the 2019 American College of Rheumatology meeting in November, 2019.  Although TULIP-1 did not achieve the primary endpoint, several secondary endpoints were met.  TULIP-2 was successful.  Between all three studies, approximately 1000 patients were enrolled.  Taking advantage of these large numbers, additional analyses of the combined datasets afforded our ability to answer questions about the effects of anifrolumab that were not previously addressed with greater power. In the narrative that accompanied my presentation, I stated “In lupus, disease activity begets damage, and damage begets more damage.  The long-term sequelae of heightened disease activity, better known as flare, are significant.  Regardless of how flare is defined or measured, a major goal is to prevent flare. It is quite justified to think a drug that reduces lupus disease activity should also prevent flares. Well, the proof is in the pudding. In this analysis, we evaluated the effects of anifrolumab on flares.  Recall that anifrolumab targets the type I interferon receptor, blocking all 5 type I subtypes.  The phase 2 MUSE study yielded robust results as did the phase 3 TULIP-2 study.  While, the phase 3 TULIP-1 study did not achieve its primary endpoint, many secondary endpoints showed benefit. In this study, we focused on flare, and examined TULIP-1 and 2 individually as well as pooled data from both studies.”  (more…)