Purpose of review: Despite decades of extensive work in the understanding of the etiopathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus, few biomarkers have been validated and widely accepted for this disease. The lack of reliable, specific biomarkers not only hampers clinical management of systemic lupus erythematosus but also impedes development of new therapeutic agents. This paper reviews briefly the historical aspects of systemic lupus erythematosus biomarkers and summarizes recent studies on candidate biomarkers.
Recent findings: Recognizing the urgent need for lupus biomarkers, a Lupus Biomarker Working Group has recently been initiated to facilitate collaborative efforts aimed at identifying and validating biomarkers for systemic lupus erythematosus. Based on available data, several laboratory markers have shown promise as biomarkers for susceptibility, diagnosis, and disease activity. These include Fc receptor genes (disease susceptibility), complement C4d-bound erythrocytes (diagnosis or disease activity), CD27 plasma cells (disease activity), 'interferon signature' (disease activity), and anti-C1q antibodies (disease activity and organ involvement).
Summary: There is a longstanding and recently rejuvenated enthusiasm for biomarkers that precisely and specifically reflect the pathophysiologic and clinical changes in systemic lupus erythematosus. Promising candidate biomarkers have been identified but must still be validated through rigorous, large-scale multicenter studies.