Pursuing The Next Generation Of Arthritis Treatment

November 16, 1998

To accelerate the introduction of more effective, safer treatments for arthritis, the University of California San Francisco has established a special research center for testing promising experimental drugs for the disease.

The Rosalind Russell New Arthritis Treatment Program offers patients innovative therapies that target specific cells known to promote inflammation and joint damage. The program was established with major financial support from the Rosalind Russell Arthritis Center, which has played a key role in funding research on arthritis at UCSF for twenty years.

Arthritis, the world's number one crippler, afflicts more than 40 million Americans and that figure is expected to grow dramatically as baby boomers age. Current treatments, such as medications, are only partially effective and they can cause serious, sometimes fatal, side effects.

"The kinds of treatments we're testing represent the first real potential for genuine breakthroughs in more than a generation," according to UCSF-Stanford Health Care rheumatologist David Wofsy, MD, UCSF professor of medicine and director of the New Arthritis Treatment Program. "The revolutionary developments in molecular and cell biology over the last ten to 15 years are finally beginning to pay off in a new generation of arthritis treatments that promise fewer side effects and greater effectiveness."

Eventually, between five and ten clinical trials will be conducted simultaneously at the New Arthritis Treatment Program, Wofsy said. Two are currently underway. One involves patients with rheumatoid arthritis, which is the most crippling form of the disease and affects about 2.5 million people. Its purpose is to compare the effectiveness of a treatment, called TNF receptor, with methotrexate, the current standard treatment. This trial is being conducted as part of a nationwide effort that has led to preliminary approval of the new treatment by The Food and Drug Administration.

The other current clinical trial is the first test of a promising new treatment for systemic lupus, a potentially life-threatening form of arthritis. This treatment was initially available only at UCSF. Based on encouraging results, it will enter nationwide testing this month (November) with UCSF serving as the central and coordinating site, Wofsy said.

Additional clinical trials for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are expected to be launched in the first half of 1999 at the Rosalind Russell New Arthritis Treatment Program. Current studies focus on rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Call 415-502-1698 for more information.

University of California - San Francisco

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