British Researchers Honoured

Emeritus Professor Sir Ravinder Maini, former Head of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Imperial College London and his follower Professor Marc Feldmann have led to the development of new drugs which tackle the inflammation and tissue destruction caused by rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The treatments they developed have proved effective in most patients, even those resistant to all previous treatments. They also protect the joints from further destruction.

The breakthrough came for Maini and Feldmann when they discovered how autoimmune diseases such as arthritis cause the immune system to fight itself. Their work showed that the key lay in molecules responsible for cell communication, known as cytokines.

Cytokines are normally released by immune cells, to alert the immune system to initiate a protective counter-response against infections. Maini and Feldmann discovered that in autoimmune diseases, cytokines are over-produced, with highly increased cytokine levels around otherwise healthy cells. This leads to the signs and symptoms of disease and in rheumatoid arthritis it explains the body's aggressive reaction in areas of arthritic inflammation around patients' joints.

The Professors' work stimulated the development of three anti-TNF drugs, infliximab, etanercept and adalimumab. Furthermore, a new branch of medicine known as anti-cytokine therapy is now emerging, which builds on their work. This research is looking at other cytokine messengers, in addition to TNF, to see how targeting these messengers might treat more conditions.; Source: Imperial College London