A new one time treatment is being tested by scientists in Great Britain which could potentially “switch off” rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers are theorizing that the drug will turn off the immune system response that is the cause of the debilitating disease. This may put the RA patient into remission for years, or even potentially for life.
The trials, led by Clinical Rheumatology Professor John Isaacs at Newcastle, are scheduled to start next month and will initially involve 40 patients.
The drug being tested is called otelixizumab which was used in the past in stronger doses to prevent rejection of organs by transplant patients.
Otelixizumab targets T-cells, white blood cells that are part of the body’s immune system which are key to the process in RA. The researchers believe that if they can “switch off” the signals from the T-cells they can halt RA at the source.
The trial participants will receive a one-off dose of otelixizumab, administered intravenously for between two and five hours a day over five consecutive days. Current treatments for rheumatoid arthritis can send patients into remission, but these they have to be administered on an ongoing basis.
“There is the potential that this switch off could last forever. Perhaps this would only be in patients who we treat at the early stage of the disease. However, the chance of this happening in patients who have had the disease for a while is not altogether absent” says Professor Isaacs.
If the trials show that the treatment is successful researchers hope that they can develop a form of the drug which can be easily injected by the patients themselves.
If successful, the drug could be available to patients within a decade.