DALLAS, May 26 /PRNewswire/ -- In the May 2, 2005, issue of The Journal of
Experimental Medicine, Virginia Pascual, M.D., and Jacques Banchereau, Ph.D.,
from the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research in Dallas (BIIR), report on
the successful treatment of children with systemic onset juvenile idiopathic
arthritis (SoJIA). The findings are highly significant for SoJIA patients for
whom previous therapies have failed.
Approximately 250,000 children in the U.S. suffer from juvenile arthritis.
SoJIA accounts for about 10 percent of all juvenile arthritis cases with
unknown causes. Early symptoms, which often go undiagnosed, may include fever
and a rash. As the disease progresses, anemia and other blood-related issues
develop, as do inflammation and joint pain. Depending on the duration and
severity of the disease long-term disabilities may develop.
"Most of the children in our study have suffered from persistent fever and
arthritis for years. Additionally, they have suffered from side effects
resulting from conventional medications. Through this research, we found that
we could not only control the disease, but also allow these children to grow
and carry out normal lives," said Dr. Pascual.
In collaboration with researchers from Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for
Children in Dallas, the BIIR team identified children with this form of
juvenile arthritis who had not responded to other treatment regimens. They
discovered that white blood cells from these SoJIA patients expressed higher
levels of certain immune system genes than white blood cells from healthy
individuals. They also found that blood serum from the SoJIA patients caused
healthy white blood cells to start overexpressing these genes and to secrete
higher levels of interleukin-1b. Interleukins are proteins made by white
blood cells that help regulate the immune system. The researchers observed
that higher IL-1b secretion also occurred in SoJIA patients.
"We felt that oversecretion of IL-1b might play a significant role in
SoJIA and that inhibiting IL-1b activity could be beneficial," said Dr.
Banchereau, director, BIIR.
To test this hypothesis, nine SoJIA patients received a drug, called
Anakinra, which inactivated IL-1. Anakinra, marketed by Amgen, is a
genetically engineered version of the IL-1 receptor that has been used to
treat rheumatoid arthritis. All nine patients responded to the therapy.
Seven patients had systemic symptoms, such as fever. A week after the first
treatment the fever was gone from all seven and did not return for the length
of the one-year follow up. Eight of the nine had active arthritis. In these
patients, the researchers observed decreases in the arthritic symptoms in the
joints as well as improvement of hemoglobin levels, white blood cell count and
a number of other indicators of arthritis. They found that the therapy
completely restored the function of six of the eight patients and lessened the
symptoms of the remaining two.
The findings were also presented by Dr. Pascual at the recent Federation
of Clinical Immunology Societies Meeting held in Boston.
Dallas-based Baylor Institute for Immunology Research is the immunology
research component of Baylor Research Institute, an affiliate of Baylor Health
Care System. Opened in 1996, Baylor Institute for Immunology Research brings
laboratory scientists and clinicians together in an effort to increase
understanding of how the immune system works. The institute is devoted to
translating basic laboratory discoveries made about the immune system into
effective treatments for humans. This interdisciplinary program focuses on
developing new therapies, such as dendritic cell therapy, which involves the
use of dendritic cells to modulate the immune response in beneficial ways to
treat cancer, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and transplant
For more information about Baylor Institute for Immunology Research, visit
SOURCE Baylor Institute for Immunology Research