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New vaccine-style rheumatoid arthritis therapy trialled successfully

20:00 EDT 4 Jun 2015 | Arthritis Research UK

Australian researchers have successfully trialled a world-first vaccine-style therapy that targets the underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis.

Developed by the University of Queensland, the new immunotherapy has been engineered specifically for individuals carrying high-risk rheumatoid arthritis genes and specific anti-CCP antibodies.

The treatment works by teaching the patient's immune system to ignore a naturally occurring peptide that is incorrectly identified as a foreign body, thus preventing the production of CCP antibodies that cause the inflammation that characterises rheumatoid arthritis.

For this phase I trial, a personalised immunotherapy was prepared for each patient by taking a sample of their blood and extracting a particular type of immune cell called dendritic cells, which were then modified and injected back into the patient.

Findings published in the medical journal Science Translational Medicine indicated that this technique was safe, helped to suppress the immune response and thus delivered a reduction in inflammation.

The team is now working with Dendright Pty Ltd and Janssen Biotech to create a new delivery technology. If this proves successful, it is hoped the technique could also be applied to other diseases, such as type 1 diabetes.

University of Queensland Diamantina Institute researcher Professor Ranjeny Thomas said: "At this stage, the technique would not be ideal for widespread treatment or prevention of rheumatoid arthritis, because it's costly and time-consuming.

"However, the promising results of this trial lay the foundations for the development of a more cost-effective, clinically-practical vaccine technology that could deliver similar outcomes for patients."

A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK welcomed the study as getting to the root cause of rheumatoid arthritis: when the body's immune system attacks healthy tissue, causing pain and disability.

"This treatment acts to re-educate the immune system so that it recognises healthy tissue, stopping the vicious cycle of joint inflammation and damage," she added.

"This is particularly exciting as it is not simply a way to treat symptoms but to actually stop rheumatoid arthritis in its tracks. However, more research is needed before this treatment is proven to be effective and safe.

"We are funding a similar study at the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Experimental Medicine at Newcastle University, where re-educated immune cells are injected into the knees of rheumatoid arthritis patients. We hope that in the future this will develop into an innovative and life-changing new therapy for people living with the daily pain of rheumatoid arthritis."

Original Article: New vaccine-style rheumatoid arthritis therapy trialled successfully

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