A spotlight on the SYCAMORE trial: developing treatments for young people with arthritis

Two researchers working in a lab.

In 2014, we launched the very first Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centre for Children (EATC4Children), with the University of Liverpool, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and colleagues in Bristol and Sheffield.

By bringing together the collective expertise of clinicians, academics and scientists, the centre created a hub for accelerating and developing new treatments for juvenile arthritis.

Amongst these was the ground-breaking SYCAMORE trial, which resulted in a treatment for uveitis becoming available for children in 65 countries worldwide.

Investing in juvenile arthritis research

Working with Professor Ramanan, from University Hospitals Bristol, SYCAMORE investigated if a biologic drug called adalimumab could be used in combination with methotrexate to treat uveitis. The response was so impressive that the trial ended early and NHS England changed their guidelines to give children access to adalimumab.

The Federal Drug Administration in the United States and the European Medicines Agency soon followed in the pioneering footsteps of NHS England, so that children all over the world could access this ground-breaking treatment.

Changing lives through research

Lily was diagnosed with arthritis and uveitis when she was 3. She had to be taken to school in a pushchair because walking the short distance with her friends was just too painful.

The available treatments weren’t working and there was concern she could lose her sight. At 5 years old Lily joined the SYCAMORE trial and for her Mum, Jane, this was a huge leap of faith.

‘Allowing Lily to have a drug that hadn’t been approved wasn’t an easy decision to make, but the trial was our only option.’

Lily responded brilliantly to the treatment. Thanks to the SYCAMORE trial finding the right treatment for her, she ‘doesn’t have time to have arthritis anymore.’ At 10 years old, she’s too busy dancing, doing gymnastics, playing netball and spending time with her friends.