Baylor Institute for Immunology Research Reports Success in Treating Children With Juvenile Arthritis

Latest Findings Published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine

May 26, 2005, 01:00 ET from Baylor Institute for Immunology Research

    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