Development of a new ACTH-based treatment that may be effective in reducing joint inflammation

Disease - Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis

Lead applicant - Professor Mauro Perretti

Organisation - Queen Mary University of London

Type of grant - Project Grant

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £217,557.20

Start date - 1 October 2016

Reference - 21274

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

ACTH (adrenocorticotrophin hormone) is approved as a treatment of arthritis, however prolonged use is not recommended. This is due to safety concerns resulting from excessive amounts of cortisol (a stress hormone) being released as a known side effect. The study aims to produce and test in the laboratory an effective anti-inflammatory form of ACTH without the unwanted side effects associated with cortisol release.

Why is this research important?

Over the last decade a new mechanism of action for ACTH has been suggested. It is proposed that the treatment could activate receptors on immune cells, leading to anti-inflammatory and tissue-protective effects. This suggests that cortisol release is not the main mechanism for this treatment, and so the side effect could be removed.

The researchers aim to develop a novel product based on ACTH that will be specifically activated at the site of inflammation without triggering the release of cortisol.

The results from laboratory tests and experimental models will determine whether the release of cortisol is an irrelevant effect of ACTH for the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and conclude whether it is an option to use the new form of the treatment.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis are able to be treated by ACTH; however, cortisol side effects limit its clinical application, as these conditions require prolonged treatments. Patients with chronic inflammatory conditions may then be able benefit from this current effective drug if developed into a new form that makes it safer.