Targeting messengers in the immune system to treat ankylosing spondylitis

Disease - Ankylosing spondylitis

Lead applicant - Dr Claudia Worth

Organisation - University of Oxford

Type of grant -  Clinical Research Fellowship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £182,342.33

Start date -  01 January 2020

Reference - 22287

Public Summary   

What are the aims of this research?

This research aims to determine if a messenger in the immune system called Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) plays a role in causing ankylosing spondylitis, and if it can be targeted in new treatments for the condition. GM-CSF is already known to play a role in inflammation of joints, researchers want to find out if drugs that block the actions of this messenger could be a potential new treatment option for ankylosing spondylitis. They will monitor changes in the blood and immune system of those receiving the treatment and see if they can predict responses based on unique markers in their blood.

Why is this research important?

Ankylosing spondylitis is caused by inflammation in and around the joints of the spine due to an abnormal response of the body’s own immune system. When compared to other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, there are fewer effective treatments for ankylosing spondylitis.

Blocking the activity of GM-CSF has been shown to reduce inflammation and pain in rheumatoid arthritis. This is the first study to investigate the effects GM-CSF treatments on the immune system in individuals with ankylosing spondylitis. These findings will help us to understand the specific role of GM-CSF in ankylosing spondylitis and whether blocking the messenger could be a potential new treatment for the condition.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Current treatments for ankylosing spondylitis include anti-inflammatory medications and specialist biological therapy, but not all people respond to these drugs, and they can stop working over time. Moreover, backpain often only partially improves with current biological therapies; as they do not directly treat pain itself. Treatments targeting GM-CSF have shown potential to reduce inflammation and pain in other conditions, so this study will explore whether anti-GM-CSF treatment can work in ankylosing spondylitis and if it should be explored further as a new treatment in the future.