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UAB creates national network to advance personalized medicine in rheumatoid arthritis

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is spearheading an effort to create a national database and repository to enable researchers to identify predictors of effectiveness of various treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. Many effective medications exist, but they vary greatly in cost and side effects, and there is no way to predict which drug will work best on an individual.

A two-year, $3.3 million Grand Opportunity (GO) grant from the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) and funds from the national office and the Alabama chapter of the Arthritis Foundation will establish the Treatment Efficacy and Toxicity in Rheumatoid Arthritis Database and Repository (TETRAD). Led by UAB with 10 participating sites, TETRAD will create a large, sustainable database of treatment-response data and a repository of accompanying samples of DNA and blood cells from RA patients starting treatment with different drugs.

"TETRAD will address one of the major roadblocks to personalized medicine in RA, which is the lack of coordinated effort between academic researchers, federal funding agencies, voluntary health agencies, professional organizations, the pharmaceutical industry and biotechnology companies," said S. Louis Bridges Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the UAB Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology and principal investigator for TETRAD. "The ultimate goal is to better understand the molecular basis of treatment response and to rapidly accelerate research in RA to allow prediction of which drugs will work best in individual patients."

No single drug is effective for every patient, and there is great variability in toxicity and price, ranging from about $400 to $15,000 a year. Bridges says the next major advance needed in the treatment of RA is not additional drugs, but, rather, a dramatic improvement in the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the use of current drugs for individual patients with RA.

"TETRAD will fill a critical need by aligning and uniting the efforts of many organizations with the common goal of improving care for RA patients," Bridges said. "By unifying the efforts of academic researchers, we can create resources that would not otherwise be available, such as a bank of cryo-preserved blood cells to enable sophisticated immunologic research to dissect molecular signals of successful treatment of RA."

Other sites participating in TETRAD include the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and North Shore LIJ Health System, Manhasset, N.Y.; Johns Hopkins University; University of Colorado; University of California at San Francisco; University of Pittsburgh; University of Nebraska; Stanford University; Duke University; and Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard University.


Contact: Bob Shepard
University of Alabama at Birmingham

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