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December 28th, 2017

Genetic testing for earlier diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

By Susan Buckles

By Sharon Rosen

If you are one of the estimated 1.5 million Americans who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you know about the painful, swollen and stiff joints that are common symptoms of this chronic inflammatory disorder. Mayo Clinic has been a leader in discovering biomarkers – indicators of health and disease – that link rheumatoid arthritis to the bacteria in your gut. The July 2017 edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings highlights research into an individualized approach to treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Carla Wijbrandts, M.D., Ph.D., University of Amsterdam, and Paul-Peter Tak, M.D.,  Ph.D., Cambridge University, authors of the paper Prediction of Response to Targeted Treatment in Rheumatoid Arthritis, provide an overview of research underway to identify biological and genetic variations that can help predict which patients will respond well to each available therapy, especially newly developed biological agents. The authors also provide suggested clinical guidelines for using genetic testing to guide treatment, a framework they note will need to be modified as clinical trials currently underway are completed.

According to Eric Matteson, M.D., professor of Medicine and consultant in the Department of Rheumatology at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, Minnesota, a personalized approach is improving care for many patients.

Dr. Eric Matteson

“This research confirms there is no one single factor that can predict how beneficial a drug may be, or if a person will have certain side effects. The studies validate that genetics, gender, age, body weight and blood tests can and do help guide decisions about which therapies to use for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Taking these factors into account, patients and physicians can better focus in on particular risk factors for severe disease as well as likelihood that a patient will have a good response to therapy. This personalized approach and the predictive tools are important for guiding treatment for the safest and most effective therapies,” says Dr. Matteson.

These findings are important because RA is a painful disease that affects quality of life. The disease occurs when your immune system attacks the tissues in your body, affecting your joints and other parts of your body, such as your eyes, skin, lungs, heart and blood vessels. While there is no cure, new advances in treatments can reduce symptoms and help prevent the disease from progressing. So the challenge facing physicians is to find the right treatment for each patient as early as possible to prevent further disability and improve patients’ quality of life.

Mayo Clinic Proceedings Symposium on Precision Medicine 

This paper is the fifth in Mayo Clinic Proceedings Symposium on Precision Medicine, a series of articles that cover a wide range of topics in personalized medicine. Watch for upcoming articles in the symposium, which will focus on how personalized medicine and genomics are impacting patient care. Learn more about the series.

Learn more about precision medicine research for rheumatoid arthritis

This article originally appeared in the Center for Individualized Medicine blog.

Tags: Dr. Eric Matteson, genetics, Mayo Clinic Center for Indivdiualized Medicine, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, RA, rheumatoid arthritis, Uncategorized

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