Cancer and the chaos of lupus

Antibodies in lupus patients are the culprits of chaos—they cause the patient’s immune system to attack healthy tissue. But these antibodies may also prove useful in preventing some types of cancer, says a team of Yale researchers led by James E. Hansen, M.D., assistant professor of therapeutic radiology, and published in Nature Reviews: Rheumatology. Patients with lupus have reduced rates of certain cancers, like breast cancer, and Yale researchers are now saying that antibodies may explain why. Lupus antibodies attack healthy tissue by infiltrating and damaging host DNA. Some cancers, like the ones seen at lesser rates in lupus patients, are especially vulnerable to DNA damage. The paper’s authors suggest that the very thing that makes lupus antibodies so destructive could also be protective against cancers that are susceptible to DNA damage. Researchers hope that eventually these antibodies could be harnessed as a cancer therapy.