Osteoarthritis pain vaccine research shows promising results

Researchers funded by Versus Arthritis have developed a vaccine that, in tests on mice, has proved effective at treating persistent pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Researchers funded by Versus Arthritis have developed a vaccine that, in tests on mice, has proved effective at treating persistent pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Scientists from the University of Oxford, University of Bern and the Latvian Biomedical Research & Study centre have found that the drug, which works by blocking a protein called nerve growth factor, which is increased in people with persistent pain, had the potential to be a game changer for the millions of people with osteoarthritis.

It is estimated that a third of people aged 45 years and older have sought treatment for osteoarthritis in the UK (8.75 million). At least 18% of adults over 45 in England and 17% in Scotland have osteoarthritis of the knee.

As well as being the most common joint disease in humans, osteoarthritis is also one of the leading causes of persistent pain. We know that a large proportion of people with the condition have found currently available pain relief regimes ineffective, unsuitable for long term use (especially in the elderly) or associated with side effects.

The challenge for researchers is to develop a new class of pain relief that can be more effective than those currently available and which have fewer side-effects.

Although the results of initial testing are positive, the research is still in its infancy, with many more rounds of testing needed before human trials can be considered.

Speaking about the study, Versus Arthritis Director of Research Dr Stephen Simpson said: “We know that for the 10m people with arthritis, persistent pain is life changing. Too many people living with pain do not get effective relief from the treatments that are currently available, and that is why the development of more effective pain killers, with fewer side-effects, is vital for people living with arthritis.

“Although at an early stage, this is highly innovative research and these results are very promising. We are proud to support research such as this, which aim to tackle this urgent problem and discover new ways to help people overcome pain.”

Professor Tonia Vincent of Oxford University’s Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology said: ‘This is the first successful vaccination to target pain in osteoarthritis, one of the biggest healthcare challenges of our generation’.

‘Whilst there are still safety issues that need to be considered before these types of approaches can be used in patients, we are reassured that this vaccine design allows us to control antibody levels and thus tailor treatment to individual cases according to need’.