Could arthritis wonder drugs provide clues for all disease?

Jul 18, 2008

Drugs that have helped treat millions of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers may hold the key to many more medical conditions, including atherosclerosis – a leading cause of heart disease – says the researcher who jointly invented and developed them.

Professor Marc Feldmann will tell scientists attending the 2008 Congress of European Pharmacological Societies (EPHAR) – hosted by the British Pharmacological Society – that drugs he and colleagues helped develop have already proved successful against other autoimmune diseases.

The drugs target proteins called cytokines, which are protein messaging molecules released by immune cells to alert the immune and other systems that the body is under attack from a pathogen and to initiate a protective counter-response against the infection.

"In autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, we discovered that cytokines are over-produced causing the immune system to fight itself, resulting in inflammation and tissue destruction," said Professor Feldmann, from Imperial College London, who is speaking at the EPHAR 2008 conference at The University of Manchester this week.

"We further found that by blocking just one cytokine – Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) alpha – we were able to block all the cytokines involved in the inflammation, with remarkable clinical results."

The team's research led to the development of three anti-TNF alpha drugs – infliximab, etanercept and adalimumab – which have had a dramatic effect on the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis patients, protecting the joints from further deterioration in the vast majority of cases.

Blocking TNF alpha has had further success in treating several more chronic inflammatory conditions, including Crohn's disease, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and ulcerative colitis.

But Professor Feldmann, Head of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, believes similar drugs have the potential to treat many other medical conditions and will also tell the conference about his work on atherosclerosis, a disease affecting the arterial blood vessels, commonly known as 'hardening of the arteries', with his colleague Dr Claudia Monaco.

Their work, which has won a number of prestigious awards, has resulted in the emergence of a new branch of medicine – anti-cytokine therapy – and research elsewhere has showed promise in yet more conditions, including the potentially fatal acute alcoholic hepatitis.

Professor Feldmann said: "During the conference I will be discussing the potential therapeutic targets in tissue affected by atherosclerosis, which is caused by a chronic inflammatory response in the walls of the arteries, in large part, caused by an excessive immune response to cholesterol.

"I will also discuss whether it is possible – even likely – that cytokines play a critical role in all diseases involving multiple biological processes, thus providing therapeutic targets for all unmet medical needs."

Source: University of Manchester

Explore further: Blood test for yeast infections approved

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Arthritis drugs could help prevent memory loss after surgery

Nov 01, 2010

Anti-inflammatory drugs currently used to treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis may also help prevent cognitive decline after surgery, according to a new study led by researchers at UCSF and colleagues at Imperial College, ...

Recommended for you

Blood test for yeast infections approved

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—The first blood test to detect five strains of yeast that cause rare blood infections in people with weakened immune systems has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Discount generic drug programs grow over time

Sep 22, 2014

Generic discount drug programs (GDDPs, which charge nominal fees to fill prescriptions) have grown over time and their initial lower use by racial/ethnic minorities has evaporated, writes author Song Hee Hong, Ph.D., of the ...

Seniors successfully withdraw from meds

Sep 19, 2014

Elderly people have proved receptive to being de-prescribed medications, as part of a trial aimed at assessing the feasibility of withdrawal of medications among older people.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

x646d63
2.5 / 5 (2) Jul 18, 2008
Wouldn't it be more important do discover *why* the body creates too many cytokines and solve that problem, rather than block the overflow? It's like solving a leaky pipe by diverting the leaked water out the window onto the street.

Good old western medicine: treat the symptoms; ignore the problem.