Predictors of disease onset and progression in early rheumatoid arthritis A clinical, laboratory and radiological study
Sammanfattning: To diagnose rheumatoid arthritis (RA) during the early stages of the disease is often difficult. The disease course shows great inter-individual variation from mild, self-limiting to very severe destruc-tive disease with extra-articular manifestations. Early aggressive treatment with potentially toxic drugs has been shown to improve the long-term outcome. Thus, it is desirable to make an early reliable di-agnosis and to identify those patients who would benefit from being treated most aggressively.The aim of this thesis was to evaluate laboratory and clinically markers of inflammation as predic-tors of disease course, to compare dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and conventional radiog-raphy (CR) as measures of joint destruction and to investigate the significance of antibodies against cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP antibodies), rheumatoid factors (RFs) and HLA shared epitope (SE) alleles for the relative risk of future development of RA and as predictors of disease severity in patients with early RA.Patients with RA of recent onset are included in the early RA programme at the Department of Rheumatology, University Hospital, Umeå and are followed longitudinally. The prediction of markers of inflammation for bone loss and radiological outcome was analyzed in the first 43 patients recruited. Radiographs of hands and feet (Larsen score) and bone mineral density (BMD) in hands (DXA), were assessed at baseline, after 1 and 2 years. The disease activity was evaluated clinically and by labora-tory tests. Radiological damage increased significantly during the study and was particularly corre-lated with Larsen score at baseline. BMD in hands decreased significantly in postmenopausal women and the decrease was greater than in healthy matched controls. Radiological progression and bone loss in hands was retarded by an early response to therapy.In a case-control study within the Medical Biobank and the Maternity cohort of Northern Sweden, patients from the early RA programme were identified among blood donors from whom samples had been collected years before onset of symptoms. The prevalence of anti-CCP antibodies and RFs (IgA-RF, IgG-RF and IgM-RF) was investigated in samples from 83 individuals (pre-patients) and com-pared with matched controls. SE alleles were assessed in a sub-group of 59 individuals. Anti-CCP antibodies and RFs preceded onset of RA by several years and increased in prevalence closer to dis-ease onset. Anti-CCP antibodies and IgA-RF significantly predicted the onset of RA. The combination of anti-CCP antibodies and SE alleles was associated with a high relative risk for future development of RA.In a later co-analysis between the register of patients in the early RA programme (n=138) and the Medical Biobank and the Maternity cohort, 93 pre-patient samples were identified. The significance of SE alleles and of the presence of anti-CCP antibodies and RFs before and at disease onset for disease activity and severity was studied. Radiographs of hands and feet were assessed at baseline and after 2 years (Larsen score). The presence of anti-CCP antibodies in pre-patient samples and at baseline was associated with radiological damage, as was presence of all RFs at baseline. A higher titre of anti-CCP antibodies was associated with greater radiological progression. The titre was lowered by a therapeutic response. In multiple logistic regression analyses anti-CCP antibodies, IgA-RF, ESR and swollen joint count predicted greater radiological progression, whilst a therapeutic response predicted a lesser pro-gression.In conclusion, anti-CCP antibodies and IgA-RF are predictors for future onset of RA and for radio-logical destruction and progression. The combination of anti-CCP antibodies and SE alleles is associ-ated with a high relative risk for future RA. Therapeutic response decreases the radiological progres-sion and the bone loss in hands and lowers the titre of anti-CCP antibodies. Conventional radiography is a better measure of joint destruction than DXA.
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