UCL News


Arthritis cure 'firmly on the agenda', successful drug trial reveals

25 October 2002

Drug trial results for a new treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis not only show that the treatment is a success but provide a compelling picture of exactly how Rheumatoid Arthritis is caused, something that has eluded scientists for over a century.

The success of the drug - known as Rituximab - confirms a scientific hypothesis as to the roots of this debilitating disease.

Over 350,000 people are affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis in the UK and treatments currently range both in type and effectiveness.

Rituximab acts by suppressing antibody production within the immune system, breaking a key part of the cycle that causes the inflammation of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Over 50% of patients treated in the trial showed 'major improvements' and a further 23% showed a 'brilliant response' to the treatment.

The results of the trial of Rituximab will be presented by Professor Jo Edwards from University College London (UCL) before being delivered to the American College of Rheumatology conference in the USA on Friday 25 October 2002.

The trial of Rituximab was set up by Professor Edwards and colleagues after initial laboratory work at UCL demonstrated that limiting B-Cells in the body might help to break the chain of action that leads to the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rituximab removes B-Cells from the blood helping to eliminate the problem at the source.

Speaking at the press briefing, Professor Edwards says:

"An arthritis cure is now firmly on the agenda. This study proves the scientific validity of the benefits of Rituximab to Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers.

"It's like having a bug in your computer; Rituximab re-boots part of your immune system and when you switch it back on the bug is gone.

"Rituximab looks to be as good as the best drugs currently available. Its benefits are that it lasts much longer, on average up to a year. Patients given Rituximab in the study have been able to return to work and in some cases have taken up more strenuous activities such as sports, going to the gym and joining walking clubs."