Therapeutic interventions aimed at the human complement system are recognized as potentially important strategies for the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases because there is often evidence of complement-mediated injury according to pathologic assessments. In addition, there are a large number of potential targets, both soluble and cell bound, that might offer potential for new drug development, but progress in this area has met with significant challenges. Currently, 2 drugs are approved aimed at inhibition of complement activation. The first option is eculizumab (anti-C5), which is approved for the treatment of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome. Eculizumab has also been studied in human transplantation for the treatment and prevention of antibody-mediated rejection (ABMR). Initial data from uncontrolled studies suggested a significant benefit of eculizumab for the prevention of ABMR in highly HLA-sensitized patients, but a subsequent randomized, placebo-controlled trial failed to meet its primary endpoint. Anecdotal data, primarily from case studies, showed benefits in treating complement-mediated ABMR. A second approved complement-inhibiting therapy is C1 esterase inhibitor (C1-INH), which is approved for use in patients with hereditary angioedema, a condition caused by mutations in the gene that codes for C1-INH. A recent placebo-controlled trial of C1-INH for prevention of ABMR in HLA-sensitized patients found that the drug was safe, with evidence for inhibition of systemic complement activation and complement-activating donor-specific antibodies. Other drugs are now under development.
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