Sarcoidosis research is currently focused on learning more about how to improve diagnosis and treatment. Various medications used to treat other conditions are being studied to see if they can help people with sarcoidosis. Other areas of sarcoidosis research are studying the role that genetics plays in the development of the disease, as well as how cell function can lead to sarcoidosis.
Research scientists worldwide are trying to learn more about sarcoidosis and how to improve its diagnosis and treatment. Some recent research studies have led to possible new sarcoidosis treatment options, which, in turn, are being studied. Current areas of focus include:
- The possible causes of sarcoidosis
- Why sarcoidosis seems to act differently in people of different races (see Sarcoidosis and Who It Affects)
- Why sarcoidosis appears in some families
- How genes, passed from one generation to another, may make some people more likely than others to develop sarcoidosis
- How cells act and communicate with each other to cause symptoms of sarcoidosis.
Research scientists are studying medications that are used to treat other conditions to see if they can help people who have sarcoidosis. These medicines include:
- Etanercept (Enbrel®). This medicine is an immunosuppressant. It's injected under the skin to reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. It may also be used to treat psoriasis or ankylosing spondylitis -- a type of arthritis that affects the joints in the spine. Early studies suggest that it may not be useful in treating sarcoidosis, but research is ongoing.
- Infliximab (Remicade®). This medicine is also an immunosuppressant. It's injected into a vein in the arm. It is used to treat Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. Some studies have shown it to help sarcoidosis patients who also have lupus pernio, eye disease, or neurosarcoidosis. This medicine has serious side effects, but may improve lung function in some people who aren't helped by corticosteroids. More research is needed to know for sure.
- Pentoxifylline. This medicine is an immunosuppressant. Stomach and gastrointestinal side effects are common. Early studies show that it has helped some people who have sarcoidosis in their lungs reduce their doses of prednisone while taking it.
- Tetracycline. Tetracycline antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease, some types of pneumonia, and acne. A few small studies suggest that they may help in treating sarcoidosis in the skin. Research is ongoing.
- Thalidomide. This immunosuppressant can have serious side effects, but it is effective against other conditions that involve granulomas of the skin (for example, leprosy or tuberculosis). Scientists are studying this medicine to see if it can be used to treat sarcoidosis in the skin.