"Arthritis Breakthrough Gets A Cautious Welcome " 
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 "Arthritis Breakthrough Gets A Cautious Welcome "

Another, somewhat more comprehensive article on this new rheumatoid
arthritis study.  Amy in CT
Arthritis Breakthrough Gets A Cautious Welcome
Charles Arthur
c.2000 The Independent, London

LONDON - Experts reacted cautiously Sunday to news that a team of
British scientists may have developed a cure for the crippling disease
rheumatoid arthritis and possibly other ``auto-immune'' diseases.

      Scientists from University College London (UCL) were announcing
Monday, at an international conference, that they have had success in
small-scale trials to treat people suffering from the painful disease,
which affects 750,000 people in Britain.

      The treatment consists of {*filter*} that destroy the body's own
``B-cells,'' part of the immune system which defends the body against
disease. Sometimes these B-cells attack the body's own tissue, leading
to rheumatoid arthritis.

      But, commenting on the reports, Dr. Anthony Clarke, medical
director at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatoid Diseases, said
details on the treatment were ``sketchy'' and it was too early to hail
it as a wonder cure. He said: ``Eigh{*filter*} patients have shown benefits
but for any new drug you have to put it through a long, testing
process to make sure early promise proves to be correct and to make
sure it is safe.'' Such testing can take five to ten years from the
first human successes.

      The UCL team's work looked at the role of the B-cells, the white
{*filter*} cells that defend the body against viruses and bacteria by
making antibodies that attack the hostile microbes. B-cells often
accidentally make antibodies that attack healthy tissue; some of those
errant antibodies then also trigger the production of copies of
themselves. In that case, rheumatoid arthritis can follow, as the
collagen which normally allows the joints to move smoothly becomes
shredded and rough.

      The rheumatoid form is only one version of arthritis; the
disease generally appears in old age as the collagen becomes worn
naturally and is not replaced. The UCL team's treatment will have no
effect on that.

      The new treatment uses {*filter*} that seek out and destroy B-cells.
The body responds to the destruction of all its B-cells by making
fresh ones. The chances are small that these new B-cells will make the
same mistake as their predecessors and trigger a return of rheumatoid

      Of 20 patients who underwent 18 months of treatment, five now
have only some residual pain from the damage already done.

      Professor Edwards said: ``They have returned to leading a more
or less normal life. So far, of the total of 20 patients only two have
had no benefit at all.'' The patients have had rheumatoid arthritis
for an average of 20 years, he added. The B-cell-based therapy might
also offer hope to patients with other auto-immune diseases, such as
Crohn's disease, lupus and even multiple sclerosis, as it suggests
ways of stopping the destructive cycle in which the immune system
turns on the body's own tissues.

      The team is announcing the results of its research at the annual
scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in
Philadelphia. The findings will be also published in the leading
journal Rheumatology.

      Richard Glutch, spokesman for voluntary group Arthritis Care,
has told the Government that it will have to allocate substantial
resources to pay for any {*filter*} that emerge from the new treatment.

 (The Independent Web site is at http://www.***.com/
(Distributed by New York Times Special Features)

Sat, 19 Apr 2003 06:21:43 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

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