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Combining risk factors to develop a new way to predict the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis

Award Details

  • Principal Investigator
    Dr Ian Scott
  • Type of grant
    Clinical Research Fellowship
  • Amount Awarded
  • Institute
    King's College London
  • Location
  • Status
  • Start Date
  • Grant reference number
  • Condition
    Rheumatoid Arthritis

What are the aims of this research?

We want to develop a model that allows us to predict a person’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We will combine known risk factors for the disease in this model and test it in a large group of people to find out if it can accurately predict who is at risk of developing RA.

Why is this research important?

RA is a common disease with a major cost for both the individual and the NHS. If we can predict those at risk this could lead to earlier treatment or even prevent the disease from developing in the first place. Many factors have been found that increase the risk of developing RA. These include environmental (e.g. smoking) and epidemiological factors (e.g. ageing). We also know that genetic differences and certain antibodies play a role in disease risk.

Currently there is only one published model that uses genetic and non-genetic factors to estimate the risk of someone developing RA. However, this model has limitations as it uses only 22 risk genes (at present there are at least 34 known risk genes with ongoing research to locate more). In addition it only uses a limited number of non-genetic risk factors. We also lack information on the risk genes in people of non-European descent. Our model will use all the identified genetic and non-genetic risk factors and will be updated to include new factors as they emerge.

We will collect the published data on these risk factors to measure a person’s “odds” of developing RA. A computer program will combine these to produce a model to predict disease risk. We will test our model in large groups of people, with and without RA, with known risk factors. Next, using samples from patients who have taken part in trials of treatment in RA, we will find out if the model can predict the severity of RA. Finally, we will test our model in patients of African descent to see if they have the same genetic risks as people of European descent.

How will the findings benefit patients?

It is crucial to improve our understanding of the genetic basis of RA (which our study will allow) as this will move us a step closer towards a cure. Increasing awareness of who is at risk of RA can benefit patients by encouraging them to attend doctors more promptly for early treatment; this can help to prevent pain and disability. It could also encourage simple lifestyle changes in those at risk to prevent the disease.

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