Tumour necrosis factor-cc blockade: A new era for effective management of rheumatoid arthritis
Tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-ct inhibitors have emerged as a new treatment option for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The scientific rationale for targeting TNF-a in RA derives from extensive work in the laboratory, showing the importance of this pro-inflammatory cytokine as a mediator of joint inflammation. Proof of principle has now been firmly established in clinical trials where TNF-a inhibitors have been shown to decrease the signs and symptoms of joint inflammation and slow radiological progression of joint damage. Presently, the two TNF-a inhibitors available for use in RA are etanercept and infliximab. Etanercept is a soluble TNF receptor: Fc fusion protein that competes with the endogenous TNF receptors for TNF-a binding. Infliximab is a chimeric anti-TNF-a monoclonal antibody, which also binds with high affinity to soluble TNF-a. Etanercept and infliximab will be rapidly incorporated into current treatment paradigms, which call for early and intensive treatment of RA using disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as methotrexate, sulfasalazine and hydroxychloroquine. A major drawback to the widespread use of these biologies is their high costs. Some patients with limited financial means may be denied access to these effective anti-inflammatory agents. Moreover, long-term experience with TNF-a inhibitor therapy has been limited and concerns linger about the possibility that etanercept and infliximab may cause unforeseen side effects or increase the risk for opportunistic infection. Despite these caveats, TNF-a inhibitors represent a major advance for the treatment of RA and will likely spawn new indications for anti-TNF-a therapy and the development of novel therapeutic compounds with similar biological activity. 2000 ©Ashley Publications Ltd.
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