An evening with autoimmune disorder experts

| Written by Monica May
Sanford Burnham Prebys Insights: Immunology

On June 20, 2019, nearly 100 community members, including many people living with autoimmune disorders and their loved ones, joined us at our latest SBP Insights event. The discussion featured unique perspective from three experts—a scientist, a doctor and a patient—on a single topic: autoimmune disorders. 

More than 50 million Americans have an autoimmune disorder, such as Crohn’s disease, psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis. These conditions are often painful, chronic and debilitating. For unknown reasons, more than 80 percent of these patients are women. 

Scientists know these disorders occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. But researchers still don’t understand why immunosuppressive treatments don’t work for everyone or know the initial trigger that causes the immune system to misfire. Answers to these fundamental questions could unlock insights that lead to new, effective medicines. 

“Before I was diagnosed, I thought doctors had it all sorted out. Now I know there is so much they don’t know,” says 17-year-old Madison Koslowski, who was diagnosed last year with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. She uses a wheelchair and cane for mobility while she works with her doctor to find a treatment that relieves her intense joint pain. “Right now, my friends are planning their future and figuring out where they will go to college. But for me, there are so many unknowns. I don’t know if I’m going to respond to the next medicine we try or if I will be really sick. I feel like my life is on pause. I have no idea when it will start again.”

17-year-old Madison Koslowski (right), who was diagnosed last year with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, poses with race-car driver Angela.
17-year-old Madison Koslowski (right), who was diagnosed last
year with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, poses with race-car
driver Angela.

Madison traveled from Los Angeles with her mother and a friend to hear race-car driver Angela Durazo speak about her journey with rheumatoid arthritis and learn what’s on the horizon for autoimmune treatments (read Angela’s story).

Following Angela’s presentation, Carl Ware, Ph.D., professor and director of the Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases Center at Sanford Burnham Prebys, took the stage and provided an overview of the science behind autoimmune disease. Ware also described his ongoing research collaboration with Eli Lilly, which recently led to a new Phase 1 clinical trial for autoimmune disorders. 

Hal Hoffman, M.D., chief, division of allergy, immunology and rheumatology at UCSD and Rady Children’s Hospital, wrapped up the discussion with an overview of how he and his team are turning to rare immune disorders to understand the conditions as a whole. A Q&A followed the brief presentations. 

The discussion was moderated by Zaher Nahle, Ph.D., CEO of the Arthritis National Research Foundation.

Join us at our next SBP Insights discussion, which focuses on pancreatic cancer and takes place on November 21, 2019. Event details.

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