Dr. Specks is the principal investigator (PI) of laboratory-based research studies designed to characterize the role of the neutrophil serine proteases, proteinase 3 (PR3) and elastase in the pathogenesis of Wegener's granulomatosis, vasculitis and lung fibrosis. Specific aims of these studies are to identify epitopes on the PR3 molecule which are preferentially recognized by PR3-ANCA (autoantibodies from patients with Wegener's granulomatosis), to characterize the effect of such epitope-specific PR3-ANCA on biological functions of PR3, and to determine whether the functional effects of PR3-ANCA have a bearing on specific clinical disease manifestations. Furthermore, the laboratory investigates structure-function relationships of PR3 and elastase and their significance in the pathogenesis of lung fibrosis. These studies have been supported by grants from the American Heart Association, the NIH and the Robert N. Brewer Foundation.
Dr. Specks is also involved in clinical research studies aimed at the identification of novel, more efficacious and safer treatment modalities for patients with Wegener's granulomatosis, ANCA- associated vasculitis, and pulmonary fibrosis. In particular, Dr. Specks is the co-principal investigator (together with Dr. John H. Stone, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore) for the multicenter trial "Rituximab Therapy for the Indcuction of Remission and Tolerance in ANCA-associated Vasculitis (RAVE)" which is sponsored by NIAID and the Immune Tolerance Network. This trial compares the efficacy and safety of rituximab to that of cyclophosphamide for patients with severe Wegener's granulomatosis and microscopic polyangiitis. Dr. Specks also serves as the principal investigator for the Mayo site of the NIH sponsored Vasculitis Clinical Research Consortium (VCRC), which conducts a variety of clinical research studies in different forms of vasculitis under the leadership of (PI, Dr. Peter A. Merkel ,Boston University)
In addition, Dr. Specks is involved in several other clinical studies designed to enhance our understanding of the clinical manifestations, course and prognosis of Wegener's granulomatosis and other ANCA-associated vasculitides.