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Funding for four Leiden studies in the fight against arthritis

Four researchers from Leiden University will receive funding from arthritis foundation ReumaNederland over the next five years. This should facilitate long-term research into arthritis.

Almost two million people in the Netherlands suffer from arthritis, a collective name for over 100 chronic conditions in the joints, muscles and ligaments. One in nine Dutch people have an arthritic condition and every day 700 people are told that they have some form of arthritis. This makes it a common chronic disease in the Netherlands.

An overview of the studies with a short description of the researchers themselves:

Context matters: Optimising tapering strategies of TNF inhibitors in rheumatoid arthritis with advanced placebo-based designs – Prof. Andrea Evers (FSW)

‘The treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has greatly improved in recent years, with about 60% of patients in stable remission. The treatment guidelines for stable RA advise reducing the use of biologic drugs in order to manage the disease with fewer anti-inflammatory drugs and reduce healthcare costs. These guidelines are applied differently in practice, however, and the decision often depends on a variety of contextual factors.

‘The aim of the research programme is to investigate whether the reduction of biologic drugs (TNF inhibitors) can be optimised by using advanced placebo techniques that focus on three central contextual factors in the treatment process: care providers (e.g. learning to communicate more effectively about drug dose reduction, through communication training), patients (e.g. relieving unnecessary worries about drug dose reduction, through expectation training) and the drugs (e.g. more effective drug dose reduction, through pharmacological conditioning).’

Fight the OsteoArthritis Chondrocyte destruction of articular cartilage - towards an Ultimate Solution (FOACUS) – Prof. Ingrid Meulenbelt (LUMC)

‘FOACUS aims to conduct clinical studies with identified targets to cure osteoarthritis and enable sustainable stem cell therapy within the duration of the project. We will also use our own stem cell expertise to develop a human model to study the underlying factors that cause pain in osteoarthritis.

‘In summary: FOACUS will form the basis for the development of new strategies in the fight against osteoarthritis. And it is our conviction that this groundbreaking research will break the critical barriers that make osteoarthritis an irreversible disease.’

CAR-T-CURE – CAR-T cells as gateway to CURE - Prof. Tom Huizinga (LUMC)

‘Many arthritic diseases are autoimmune diseases, which means that the immune system turns against the body. The cause of these diseases therefore lies in an immune system that has gone off the rails. Corrupt B cells produce antibodies against your own body. B cells are the “factories” that produce these antibodies.

‘Our programme therefore focuses on B cells and the antibodies they produce, and on achieving a cure by banishing the corrupt B cells from the body. The aim of the programme is to understand how the B cells that react against our own bodies arise and how to prevent this from happening.’

Detailed longitudinal studies in Clinically Suspect Arthralgia delivering stepping-stones to achieve precision prevention of Rheumatoid Arthritis - Prof. Anette van der Helm – van Mil (LUMC)

‘Precision prevention (“the right medication at the right time”) will not be possible until we understand what causes rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We have made important steps in the past decade on the road to RA prevention: 1. We can identify joint pain in people who may develop RA. This is called “Clinically Suspect Arthralgia” (CSA). 2. The TREAT-EARLIER study showed that methotrexate helps people with CSA. This leads to reduced joint pain, better physical function and improved functioning at work. Unfortunately, RA cannot be prevented. This suggests that either the drug or the starting point of treatment (‘risk stage’) was incorrect.

‘The aim of our research is to improve our understanding of how RA arises in people with CSA and ultimately to treat people with CSA with the right drug at the right time, to evaluate the treatment effect in good time and to prevent AR (and the disease burden).’

ReumaNederland’s aims

ReumaNederland is funding the projects so it can work on its ambitions. It wants arthritis to be a non-chronic and reversible condition by 2040. It also wants to make person-focused care for people with arthritis possible in four areas: prevention, prediction, personalisation and participation.


Photo: PeachMoon / Pixabay.com

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