National Arthritis Week: treating the causes of inflammatory disease – not just symptoms

inflammation and the knee joint

Birmingham is tackling inflammatory diseases like arthritis in partnership with the University of Oxford, through the Arthritis Therapy Acceleration Programme (A-TAP). 

A-TAP is an initiative which aims to support and develop novel treatments for arthritis based on the underlying causes of inflammatory disease – moving away from a traditional ‘organ-based, speciality-focussed’ approach to a process-driven, pathway-focussed classification for inflammatory diseases. One of the key objectives of the A-TAP is to match the right drug to the right indication early in drug discovery.

This short film, featuring Birmingham Professors Christopher Buckley and Pam Kearns alongside their Oxford colleague Professor Fiona Powrie and patient partner Helen Bartlett, brings the project to life:

Video transcript:

Professor Christopher Buckley, Kennedy Professor of Translational Rheumatology: “How do we make sure that the medical profession can adapt to a new taxonomy, where we break down not just the boundaries between the bench and the bedside, but between bedside and bedside – between the ‘ologies? Traditionally, the way we devise clinical trials is to try one drug, one disease, one outcome. If it doesn’t work we move on to the next disease with the same drug. But, one of the ways you can innovate in clinical trial design is devising a new type of trial called a basket trial.”

Professor Pamela Kearns, Director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit, Birmingham: “In a basket trial, we’re able to recruit patients with multiple different types of diseases all into one trial and evaluate one drug across all those diseases, rather than running ten or twenty separate trials. When you do a basket trial that’s based on a drug’s biology, what you end up with at the end of the trial is a much more intelligent answer about not only whether the drug works, but in which patients does it work and why.”

CB: “What we’re calling stratified pathology: the right drug for the right disease indication.”

Helen Bartlett, Patient Partner, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Oxford: “From a patient’s point of view I think it’s extremely important. Treating a marker like an inflammation makes a lot of sense – the diseases you look, at you know what’s causing them, what the effects are, and how to treat that – as opposed to looking at one of the core things which is, in this particular instance, the inflammation.”

CB: “It’s taking four diseases: rheumatoid, Sjogren’s, spondyloarthropathy, inflammatory bowel disease – and it’s asking: can we come towards a new taxonomy based on the underlying processes?”

PK: “We have a huge opportunity now to apply everything that we’ve learnt in how to design new drugs and develop them for cancer, and start applying them within inflammatory diseases – and that’s what the Arthritis-TAP will bring.”

Professor Fiona Powrie, Director of the Kennedy Institute: “We really are in an age of a new way of doing research. But to be able to do that with an institute with such a strong history is really fantastic.”

CB: “The A-TAP is bringing together two institutions that have tremendous strengths of their own – Oxford and Birmingham – and seven NHS organisations that are linked to those universities.”

FP: “So we’re working closely with clinical colleagues and developing a community that actually sees the value of the different ways of approaching disease research.”

CB: “We’re now ready to really engage with the exciting future that the UK has in this area and that future is all about experimental medicine, all about how the UK can offer something that’s able to take us not just to the state of the art, but beyond the state of the art.”

Learn more about the programme by visiting the A-TAP website