June 21, 2013

Newly Identified Antibodies Could Improve Diagnosis and Treatment of Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis

by Kantor & Kantor LLP

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a systemic inflammatory disease which manifests itself in multiple joints of the body. The immune system mistakenly attacks the body, causing debilitating inflammation and breakdown of the joints. Of the three million people suffering with rheumatoid arthritis, one-third have the most aggressive and severe form of the disease.

In an attempt to uncover the underlying cause of the disease, Johns Hopkins University researchers embarked on a two year research endeavor. As published in Science Translational Medicine, these researchers detected a unique antibody that attaches itself to disease-promoting enzymes. While “Normal” antibodies will block their intended target, these particular antibodies (seen in severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis) actually activate and attach themselves to disease-promoting enzymes.

One of the most frustrating things about living with RA, besides the devastating pain of course, is the invisible nature of the illness, meaning the symptoms remain mostly undetectable by outsiders. This makes RA difficult to diagnose, difficult to treat, and difficult to understand. Unfortunately, many who suffer from RA experience an extensive and delayed diagnosis process, as there is no single test that can clearly identify the illness. Signs and symptoms of RA can mimic other conditions, and it is not uncommon for patients to be misdiagnosed.

Identifying disease triggering antibodies could potentially lead to more effective diagnostic methods and better treatment options. These discoveries could enable patients and doctors to have a better idea of what treatment is the most appropriate, and when to begin.

Lead study investigator and biologist Dr. Erika Darrah, Ph.D. explained the significance of their findings. "Our results suggest that drugs inhibiting the PAD4 enzyme may have real benefit in patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis and represent an important field of study for investigating new and alternative treatments." Early detection and diagnosis in severe cases of RA is critical, and would allow patients to start aggressive treatment immediately.

At Kantor & Kantor, many of our clients with RA find themselves struggling to convince their insurance company that their disease is real and disabling. Research such as this could objectify the RA diagnosis and thus explain the symptomology patients suffer from. This would also go a long way to help satisfy an insurer’s definition of disability.

If you have RA and your long term disability claim has been denied, contact our office at (800) 446-7529 for a no-cost consultation. Our practice is dedicated to assisting insureds obtain the disability benefits to which they are entitled. For ideas on how to best advocate for disability benefits for rheumatoid arthritis, visit our website at www.kantorlaw.net.