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UCD researchers discover blood test to predict response to arthritis therapies

UCD researchers have shown for the first time that a simple blood test can predict those patients suffering from inflammatory arthritis who will respond to treatment at an early stage.

The group of clinicians and scientists based in UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular & Biomedical Research and St Vincent’s University Hospital, working with collaborators from McGill University, Montreal, have published their findings in the current issue of the leading scientific journal, Arthritis and Rheumatism.

Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are forms of progressive inflammatory arthritis that cause pain and progressive destruction of the joints. These diseases can be treated using drugs called tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFa) inhibitors, which prevent damage and limit disability in arthritis patients. The extent of joint destruction can be measured by x-ray but this visible progression develops over months and years and is not suitable to measure the efficiency of treatment to reduce joint damage over a short period.

Dr Ronan Mullan, a medical PhD student with the arthritis translational research group led by Professor Douglas Veale and Dr Ursula Fearon, funded by The Health Research Board and Science Foundation Ireland, outlined the findings of this clinical study that measured particles of cartilage collagen in the blood after the start of treatment with anti-TNFa drugs. The early changes seen in the blood levels of these collagen biomarkers at 4 weeks corresponded to the visible joint destruction seen on x-ray after one year.

‘We are very excited about the results of this research, which clearly show that collagen biomarkers may be valuable early indicators of response to arthritis treatment’, said Professor Douglas Veale. ‘This new blood test could rapidly identify patients who are at risk of their disease progressing despite ongoing therapy. It would be a valuable diagnostic tool for clinicians’.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most widespread form of inflammatory arthritis affecting more than 80,000 people in Ireland today. It can severely impact on the quality of life of patients and direct medical costs have been estimated at €30,000 per annum for each patient. An early indicator of likely response to new and expensive treatments would not only benefit the patient but the health service generally.

This research group led by Professor Douglas Veale and Dr Ursula Fearon are part of the newly formed, Dublin Academic Health Care (DAHC); Ireland’s first academic medical centre.

Elaine Quinn | alfa
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Further reports about: Arthritis Collagen Treatment Veale destruction inflammatory

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