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Professor Simon Bowman

Professor Simon BowmanProfessor Simon Bowman is a consultant rheumatologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and an honorary professor of rheumatology at the University of Birmingham.

What does your work involve?

I am a consultant rheumatologist at in Birmingham. I have a terrific group of NHS colleagues led by Paresh Jobanputra, and close links to the academic department for rheumatology led by Chris Buckley.

How long has Arthritis Research UK been funding you?

For about 15 years now I have had an interest in Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the glands that produce tears and saliva and other secretions, so patients suffer with severe dryness. Fatigue and joint pain is a major problem and about 30-40% have other more generalised problems. I have had grant support from Arthritis Research UK at various critical points in my career. My first project was to study immune responses in the blood of patients with Sjögren’s and lupus. I then received a small grant to develop a patient-reported outcome measure (PROM) in Sjögren’s. This led to the setting up of a UK wide network of clinicians interested in the condition and this work also formed the basis for a European-wide collaboration and was a component of our successful bid to the Medical Research Council to set up the UK Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome Registry (UKPSSR) led by Wan-Fai Ng at Newcastle. More recently the charity has provided almost a million pounds to fund the first UK-based trial of rituximab versus placebo in Sjögren’s syndrome.

What’s the most important thing you have found out in the past 12 months? And why?

In the past 12 months I have focused on making the Arthritis Research UK-funded TRACTISS (Trial of anti-B-cell therapy in primary Sjögren’s syndrome) study a success. One of the things about Sjögren’s is that it is a ‘suffer in silence’ disease – patients feel awful but don’t necessarily look unwell. The fatigue and oral dryness in particular are major problems. Perhaps the most important thing that I have found out in the past 12 months is how important it is to do clinical trials in collaboration with a high quality trials unit but also how important colleagues and patients are and their collaboration and enthusiasm are critical to make this activity a success – particularly their altruism and willingness to contribute without personal reward – it really is a team effort!

What do you hope or expect to achieve as a result of your Arthritis Research UK funding?

The study aims to show that suppressing B-cells using rituximab (an anti-B-cell antibody already used to treat rheumatoid arthritis) will improve the clinical features of Sjögren’s syndrome.

What do you do in a typical day?

Mostly I spend my day as a general rheumatologist I spend a morning a week on the TRACTISS study and we also have a dedicated Sjögren’s clinic that we are planning to expand due to demand.

What is your greatest research achievement?

I am best known for the clinical research that I have done investigating outcome tools that can be used to design meaningful clinical trials in Sjögren’s syndrome. This has now expanded into actually doing clinical trials i.e. the TRACTISS study.

Why did you choose to do this work?

I came to Sjögren’s indirectly through my interest in lupus and other connective tissue diseases. There is a huge unmet need for therapy in Sjögren’s and it has been a very fruitful area for me professionally and personally.

Do you ever think about how your work can help people with arthritis?

Definitely – this is the goal for any clinician and researcher. One interesting thing about Sjögren’s patients has been their feelings that other people don’t pay sufficient attention to or understand the consequences of having the condition, so knowing that there are sources of support are very important. Arthritis Research UK produces very important leaflets for patients on a range of conditions including Sjögren’s syndrome. I have also been involved with the British Sjögren’s Syndrome Association which is also involved in supporting patients with this condition.

What would you do if you weren’t a clinician/researcher?

At the moment I am greatly looking forward to my role with the British Society for Rheumatology as President Elect for the next year and President 2014-2016.

About Simon

Family and friends are the most important part of life. I enjoy the theatre and try and go regularly. My wife visited the Chelsea Flower Show and was very impressed with the Arthritis Research UK show garden.
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