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Groundbreaking Rheumatoid Arthritis Blood Test Predicts Treatment Response

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 30 Nov 2023

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease affecting joints and other systems in the body, impacts millions globally. Typically, the initial biologic treatment involves anti-inflammatory drugs from the tumor necrosis factor inhibitor (TNFi) family, including FDA-approved Infliximab and Adalimumab. However, only about 30% of RA patients find success with TNFi treatment after six months. This delay in identifying ineffective treatments can be costly, as RA can progress to cause irreversible bone damage. Now, a new predictive blood test promises to revolutionize treatment by guiding doctors to the most effective therapies for individual RA patients.

The PrismRA blood test from Scipher Medicine (Waltham, MA, USA), a Northeastern University (Boston, MA, USA) spinoff, is the first clinically validated RA test that predicts treatment response. Marking a significant step forward in RA treatment, the test is capable of determining the suitability of TNFi treatments for RA patients before they begin therapy. This is particularly beneficial as TNFis are also used in treating other immune-mediated conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis.

Image: The PrismRA blood test helps target best treatments for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (Photo courtesy of Scipher Medicine)
Image: The PrismRA blood test helps target best treatments for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (Photo courtesy of Scipher Medicine)

Scipher researchers recognized the urgent need to identify responders and non-responders to TNFis from the outset of treatment. They utilized publicly available datasets and obtained baseline blood data and TNFi response rates from hundreds of RA patients. Through this data, they applied machine-learning algorithms to predict TNFi treatment efficacy using genetic markers in the blood. Further validation was achieved by enrolling around 700 RA patients in a prospective trial to assess the test's clinical utility. The trial's findings were encouraging; patients using the PrismRA biomarker test for guiding therapy were three times more likely to achieve remission compared to those who didn’t.

The PrismRA testing process involves a simple blood draw at a doctor’s office, followed by RNA sequencing analysis. Scipher’s PrismRA test then predicts the likelihood of a patient not responding to TNFis. Based on these results, physicians can decide on an alternative therapy for the patient. With the development of this biologic test, the focus now shifts to creating similar blood marker tests for other autoimmune diseases. Scipher’s extensive collection of whole blood RNA-seq data from over 20,000 patients offers a robust molecular database for future research and test development.

“This is the first clinically validated rheumatoid arthritis test that predicts treatment response,” said Northeastern graduate Susan Dina Ghiassian, who was the first employee of Scipher Medicine. “Patients will get a chance to be put on the right therapy from day one.”

Related Links:
Scipher Medicine 
Northeastern University 

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