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A new view of drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis
Date:1/20/2008

Powerful drugs used to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis have a profound, previously unrecognized effect on the immune system, breaking up molecular training camps for rogue cells that play an increasingly recognized role in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

A team of physicians and scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center reports that drugs known as anti-TNF compounds which include drugs such as Enbrel, Humira and Remicade affect our B cells, which play a role in many autoimmune diseases.

In a study published in the cutting-edge section of the Jan. 15 issue of the Journal of Immunology, the team found that anti-TNF compounds help eliminate abnormal B cell activity in patients, raising the possibility that the drugs improve the health of patients in a way no one has realized before.

The most important considerations for any drug are: Is it safe, and does it work? said Ignacio Sanz, M.D., professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and one of two rheumatologists leading the research. The answer is certainly yes to both questions for these anti-TNF compounds. The drugs have revolutionized the treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. But it also turns out that, even though millions of patients have been treated with these medications, we really havent understood to a significant degree how they actually work.

Sanz teamed with Jennifer Anolik, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, and their two laboratories together studied the immune system in a way not often done in people. They worked with ear, nose and throat doctors who took a small snip from a patients tonsils, giving the scientists a window directly into the structures of the lymph system, rather than basing their analysis on cells afloat in the bloodstream.

Anolik and Sanz found that anti-TNF drugs disrupt the architecture of structures in our lymph system called germinal centers, which are a type
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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