Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centre - King's College London

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosis

Lead applicant - Professor Andrew Cope

Organisation - King's College London

Type of grant - Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centre

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £225,000

Start date - 1 July 2012

Reference - 20011

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Our goals are to investigate new and better ways to diagnose and treat patients with inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis, and connective tissue diseases like lupus. The team has special expertise in investigating the causes of inflammation, including the identification of white blood cells and the molecules they produce that are responsible for damage to joints and tissues, as well as identifying gene mutations that put individuals at high risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases such as lupus and RA. The centre hosts one of only two UK accredited clinical trials units (called King’s Musculoskeletal Clinical Trials Unit) dedicated to coordinating large clinical trials of new therapies for joint, bone and muscle diseases. Crucial to our success is the recruitment of trained staff that can help us to design, set up and manage these large and complex research studies. Another major goal for our centre is to develop methods for more efficient and timely recruitment to clinical trials and laboratory based research projects, so that we can offer a much wider range of opportunities for our patients to participate in high quality research studies.

Why is this research important?

Our research, our outstanding local resources and unparalleled facilities put us in a very strong position to undertake multi-centre studies with our industrial and academic partners, translating our research findings to the benefit of patients. Good examples include (1) testing new drugs for the first time in man or in a particular disease, and studying how they work, (2) new approaches to therapy including lifestyle modifications, or designing studies that test which patients are most likely to tolerate drug tapering or withdrawal, (3) discovering profiles of molecules and cells in the blood that help us to better identify patients at risk of developing disease, or developing more severe disease.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Our research is closely linked to the clinical service we provide in the outpatients department because we have established specialist clinics that allow us to study in depth patients at different stages of their disease. In this setting, patients can participate in a wide range of research projects that help us to understand different phases of the disease (active or inactive) or the level of severity (disease that leads to joint damage, or which affects the heart or kidneys). The information we gather helps us to decide which treatments are best for particular patients, and how best to target appropriate drugs to patients as early as possible. In the future we hope to offer preventive therapy. We aim to offer a range of drugs based on detailed clinical and laboratory assessments of individual patients. We undertake research about lifestyle modifications such as diet, sleep and exercise and how they affect the disease process. We conduct clinical trials that allow us to identify those patients who no longer require intensive therapy. Finally our centre pays particular attention to developing a framework through which the public and patients contribute to the design and delivery of high quality research studies. With their help we can also develop and implement ways to improve recruitment to clinical trials. In this way, we hope that patients can both contribute to and directly benefit from our research.