Research Campaign Already Improving Lives of RA Patients

October 19, 2009

The ACR's "Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis" campaign has funded research that identified a highly-specific marker of RA, helps predict response to anti-TNF therapy, and improving doctor-patient communication.

Press Release - American College of Reumatology

The American College of Rheumatology Research and Education Foundation today announced that findings through a new research program focused on rheumatoid arthritis have yielded results that will soon alter medical evaluation and management of patients. Highlights of the recent research findings were presented during a special session on Sunday, October 18, at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in Philadelphia, Pa.

More than 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which is the most common forms of inflammatory arthritis. New therapies and advances in genetics, proteomics, pharmacology and genomics have led to major progress in recent years however the cause for, and cure of, RA are currently unknown, and without specialized treatment, bones erode and joints develop deformities.

In addition, the estimated U.S. indirect and direct costs of treating RA are $80 billion annually. Despite prevalence in the population, RA receives disproportionately less federal research funding than most other autoimmune diseases.

In order to address deficiencies in rheumatoid arthritis research funding, in March 2006, the REF launched Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, a national, multi-year $30 million campaign. After 43 months, the campaign has raised nearly $26 million, and $18 million has been funded for innovative rheumatoid arthritis research to 45 notable investigators across the country.

Within Our Reach-funded research is already yielding results but practicing physicians are seldom exposed to such studies. In order to more quickly move these discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside, practicing physicians need early exposure to this information to better understand the impact of this research on patient care. Therefore, the special session presented at the ACR Annual Scientific Meeting on Sunday will feature three research projects into the diagnosis and treatment of RA.

After recently discovering a highly specific marker of RA that may help researchers to create therapies to prevent early RA from progressing, Antony Rosen, MD and his colleagues worked to identify other highly RA-specific immune responses. Dr. Rosen will present the study’s findings that identified novel B cell and T cell immune response in RA, which is associated with more severe and erosive disease. “Quantifying the immune response and understanding the mechanisms underlying its generation will provide important therapeutic targets in RA,” says Dr. Rosen of this research.

Tumor necrosis factor alpha inhibitors are a common biologic therapy used to treat RA patients, however approximately 30 percent of patients do not respond to anti-TNF therapy. Robert M. Plenge, MD, PhD will present the second presentation of the session on the human genetics used to predict response to anti-TNF therapy. “Genetic predictors of response to anti-TNF therapy should have a major impact on understanding why some patients respond to therapy while others do not,” says Dr. Plenge, thus improving patients’ quality of life.

The third presentation will be given by Kenneth G. Saag, MD on this project aimed at improving doctor-patient communication around a critical RA health issue. “RA patients very commonly take prednisone and other glucocorticoids, which increase their risk for osteoporosis. However, the minority of RA patients get osteoporosis testing or treatment,” says Dr. Saag. Therefore, his project aimed at improving health care by identifying low cost strategies to get RA patients who are on chronic steroids to more effectively communicate with their physicians about osteoporosis prevention and treatment.

Visit www.rheumatology.org/annual for complete information on how to register to attend this exciting session.

To learn more about Within Our Reach and the research being funded, visit www.WithinOurReach.info.

Source: American College of Reumatology