This summer has been a big one for lymphedema and lymphatic research news! Back in June we talked about the Stanford BioBridge study, where researchers found that surgically implanted nanofibers stimulated growth of new lymph vessels, bypassing lymph blockages and reducing swelling in affected limbs.

Now there’s a new study that has the potential to be just as much of a game-changer for lymphedema treatment, although this time by introducing a pharmacological option.

Researchers at Eiger BioPharmaceuticals have developed a drug called Ubenimex, which is currently being tested in patients diagnosed with secondary lymphedema. As explained via an article in Rare Disease Report:

The Ultra study is designed to assess the effectiveness of Ubenimex blocking the production of Leukotriene B4 (LTB4) … Leukotriene B4 (LTB4) is a naturally-occurring inflammatory substance known to be elevated in both preclinical models of secondary lymphedema as well as human lymphedema disease. Elevated LTB4 causes tissue inflammation and impaired lymphatic function. Targeted pharmacologic inhibition of LTB4 promotes lymphatic repair and reverses lymphedema disease in treated animals.

Ubenimex is an oral, small-molecule inhibitor of leukotriene A4 hydrolase, which regulates the production of leukotriene B4 (LTB4), an inflammatory mediator implicated in PAH. LTB4 is produced from leukocytes in response to inflammatory mediators and is able to induce the adhesion and activation of leukocytes on the endothelium, allowing them to bind to and cross it into the tissue.

I know—that was a lot of medical jargon!—but here’s how I understand it: Ubenimex works by blocking the production of Leuokotriene B4 (LTB4), a naturally-occurring inflammatory substance in the body that causes tissue inflammation and impaired lymphatic function when present in elevated amounts. By regulating the production of LTB4, the drug promotes lymphatic repair in patients with lymphedema and alleviates symptoms.

Currently, Eiger BioPharmaceuticals is testing the efficacy of Ubenimex as a pharmacologic inhibitor of LTB4 and a potential treatment option for lymphedema (they’re also evaluating Ubenimex in another Phase 2 study for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension). They’ve designed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial where forty patients diagnosed with lower-extremity secondary lymphedema will receive 150 mg of either Ubenimex or a placebo, administered three times a day over a period of six months.

Earlier this summer, Eiger BioPharmaceuticals kicked off the trial and dosed their first patient with Ubenimex. Hooray! The trial is estimated to run until November 2017, so we’ve got a ways to go before hearing any finalized results. Still—it’s super exciting!

You know what they say: good things come to those who wait. There’s so much amazing lymphatic research going on that we’re due for some good news soon enough, and I’m excited to see what these studies and trials will yield. Who knows—we may have some new treatment options available in the not-so-distant future!

If Ubenimex is made available as a lymphedema treatment option, would you take it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!