Patients crippled by rheumatoid arthritis have been given new hope after the discovery of a protein which triggers the disease. Powerful new drugs to help the 350,000 sufferers in Britain are a step closer after the breakthrough, giving a “completely new angle” to treatment. The finding could revolutionise care for the devastating condition and scientists in America are already developing pills. Researchers say it could lead to an effective and potentially less toxic alternative therapy to drugs which are currently prescribed to arthritis patients.
Around a third of people do not respond to or cannot tolerate treatment at the moment. Although the drugs have improved care over the past decade they suppress the immune system, leaving patients at risk of developing infections. Dr Jane Salmon, who led the study, said: “We have identified a clinically relevant target that can be applied to patients in the near term.” The discovery means a new “gateway” for treatment, leading to an effective and potentially less toxic alternative therapy to the current anti-TNF (tumour necrosis factor) drugs.