Mayo Clinic recently presented a study, at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in Boston, showing type 1 interferon as an effective marker to discriminate which treatment rheumatoid arthritis patients should receive: biologics or other type of medications. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects mainly patients’ joints, leading to deformities, pain and impaired mobility.
In this study, type 1 interferon, an important player of the immune system, was measured in blood samples collected from rheumatoid arthritis patients prior to any type of treatment. Subsequently, patients were treated with two types of drugs, anti-inflammatory biologics or inhibitors of tumor necrosis factor-alpha. The authors discovered that type 1 interferon is able to distinguish patients’ suitability for each type of treatment. This feature is particularly important since patients respond differently to each treatment and thus it is crucial to find the appropriate drug for each person.
These findings underscore the fact that, while no cure exists for rheumatoid arthritis, management of the disease’s progression is key, with patients being more prone to developing other serious conditions such as heart disease, which those with RA are twice as likely to have. Additionally, some medications carry side effects, as is the case with biologics, the second-line drug used after methotrexate that includes a higher risk for infection.
Timothy Niewold, M.D., a rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn commented, “We are trying to personalize therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. One of the main problems rheumatologists have had is that it’s hard to choose the right drug for the right person. Each new drug works for some people and not others. It’s not trivial, because the disease causes damage in the joints and if it takes a year or two to find the right treatment, then damage can accrue. In the study, we looked at markers in the immune system that might help us guide our treatment choices.”
Further studies are necessary to translate their findings into a clinical setting, and a large multi-center study is currently being launched to further investigate and confirm these findings. Additionally, whether interferon type 1 can also be used as a therapeutics marker for other inflammatory psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease is also an aim the researchers want to pursue in future studies.