A new, targeted method of treating rheumatoid arthritis that minimises side effects has been developed by researchers in London.
Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common form of arthritis in the UK. While there is still no cure, the condition may be controlled and this development points to future treatments that zero-in on the affected joints.
The research team developed antibodies that specifically target damaged arthritic cartilage. When drugs are combined with these antibodies they can be delivered directly to the arthritic joints, without a significant impact on the rest of the body.
This offers advantages over existing therapy options such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and newer biologic therapies. Although they are beneficial, many of the treatments currently available work by suppressing the immune system and blocking inflammation signals. Consequently they can negatively affect normal immune functions and leave the patient at greater risk of developing infections.
Lead author Dr Ahuva Nissim said that this targeted approach could become one of the new ways to treat arthritis patients.
“Targeting of biologic drugs to the inflamed joint will result in high local concentrations and low systemic concentrations, increasing efficacy while minimising side effects. Additionally, a lower total dose may be effective, thereby reducing the cost of treatment,” Dr Nissim explained.
The study, conducted at Queen Mary University of London, was funded by Arthritis Research UK. The results have been published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy.