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1.  Impact of a magnetic resonance imaging-guided treat-to-target strategy on disease activity and progression in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (the IMAGINE-RA trial): study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2015;16:178.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, progressive joint disease, which frequently leads to irreversible joint deformity and severe functional impairment. Although patients are treated according to existing guidelines and reach clinical remission, erosive progression still occurs. This demonstrates that additional methods for prognostication and monitoring of the disease activity are needed. Bone marrow edema (BME) detected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has proved to be an independent predictor of subsequent radiographic progression. Guiding the treatment based on the presence/absence of BME may therefore be clinically beneficial. We present the design of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) aiming to evaluate whether an MRI-guided treatment strategy compared to a conventional treatment strategy in anti-CCP-positive erosive RA is better to prevent progression of erosive joint damage and increase the remission rate in patients with low disease activity or clinical remission.
The study is a non-blinded, multicenter, 2-year RCT with a parallel group design. Two hundred anti-CCP-positive, erosive RA patients characterized by low disease activity or remission, no clinically swollen joints and treatment with synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) will be included. Patients will be randomized to either a treatment strategy based on conventional laboratory and clinical examinations (control group) or a treatment strategy based on conventional laboratory and clinical examinations as well as MRI (intervention group). Treatment is intensified according to a predefined treatment algorithm in case of inflammation defined as a disease activity score (DAS28) >3.2 and at least one clinically swollen joint (control and intervention groups) and/or MRI-detected BME (intervention group only). The primary outcome measures are DAS28 remission (DAS28 < 2.6) and radiographic progression (Sharp/vdHeijde score).
The perspectives, strengths and weaknesses of this study are discussed.
This study has been approved by The Regional Scientific Ethical Committees for Southern Denmark, S-20110109. Dissemination will occur through presentations and publication in international peer-reviewed journals.
Trial registration
The study is registered in identifier: NCT01656278 (5 July 2012)
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13063-015-0693-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4417239  PMID: 25896862
Rheumatoid arthritis; Magnetic resonance imaging; Bone marrow edema; DAS28 remission; Erosive progression
2.  CRP genotype and haplotype associations with serum C-reactive protein level and DAS28 in untreated early rheumatoid arthritis patients 
Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the CRP gene are implicated in the regulation of the constitutional C-reactive protein (CRP) expression and its response to proinflammatory stimuli. Previous reports suggest that these effects may have an impact on clinical decision-making tools based on CRP, such as the Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28). We aimed to investigate the possible association between seven CRP SNPs, their haplotypes and the serum levels of CRP, as well as DAS28 scores, in two cohorts of untreated active early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients followed during their initial treatment.
Overall, 315 patients with RA from two randomized controlled trials (the CIMESTRA and OPERA trials) who were naïve to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and steroids with disease durations less than 6 months were included. Seven CRP SNPs were investigated: rs11265257, rs1130864, rs1205, rs1800947, rs2808632, rs3093077 and rs876538. The genotype and haplotype associations with CRP and DAS28 levels were evaluated using linear regression analysis adjusted for age, sex and treatment.
The minor allele of rs1205 C > T was associated with decreased CRP levels at baseline (P = 0.03), with the TT genotype having a 50% reduction in CRP from 16.7 to 8.4 mg/L (P = 0.005) compared to homozygosity of the major allele, but no association was observed at year 1 (P = 0.38). The common H2 haplotype, characterized by the T allele of rs1205, was associated with a 26% reduction in CRP at baseline (P = 0.043), although no effect was observed at year 1 (P = 0.466). No other SNP or haplotype was associated with CRP at baseline or at year 1 (P ≥0.09). We observed no associations between SNPs or haplotypes and DAS28 scores at baseline or at year 1 (P ≥0.10).
CRP genotype and haplotype were only marginally associated with serum CRP levels and had no association with the DAS28 score. This study shows that DAS28, the core parameter for inflammatory activity in RA, can be used for clinical decision-making without adjustment for CRP gene variants.
Trial registration
The OPERA study is registered at (NCT00660647). The CIMESTRA study is not listed in a clinical trials registry, because patients were included between October 1999 and October 2002.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-014-0475-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4247621  PMID: 25359432
3.  Soluble OX40L is associated with presence of autoantibodies in early rheumatoid arthritis 
OX40 and its ligand OX40L are key components in the generation of adaptive memory response and provide necessary co-stimulatory signals for activated effector T cells. Here we investigate the dual roles of the membrane and soluble (s) forms of OX40 and OX40L in plasma and synovial fluid and their association with autoantibodies and disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Soluble OX40 and sOX40L plasma levels were measured in treatment-naïve early RA patients (eRA) at baseline and after 3, 6, and 12 months of treatment with methotrexate and adalimumab (n = 39) and with methotrexate alone (n = 37). Adalimumab was discontinued after the first year, and patients were followed for additional 12 months. For comparison, sOX40 and sOX40L were measured in patients with chronic RA (cRA, n = 15) and healthy volunteers (HV, n = 34). Membrane-bound OX40 and OX40L expression on T cells, B cells and monocytes were quantified.
Soluble OX40 plasma levels of eRA patients were not different at the time of treatment initiation, but were significantly higher after 12 months of treatment, compared with HV or cRA patients. Soluble OX40L was significantly elevated throughout the first 12 months of treatment compared with HVs and patients with cRA. Adalimumab treatment did not influence sOX40 or sOX40L plasma levels. At baseline, sOX40L levels were strongly associated with the presence of anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA) (P <0.001) and IgM-RF (P <0.0001). The sOX40/sOX40L ratio was decreased in eRA, and a low ratio at the time of adalimumab discontinuation was associated with increased DAS28CRP and risk of flare the following year. T cells in the synovial fluid had the highest expression of OX40, while monocytes and B cells were the main expressers of OX40L in the joint.
Plasma levels of sOX40 and sOX40L were increased in eRA and sOX40L was correlated with ACPA and IgM-RF. Further, expression of membrane-bound OX40 and OX40L was increased in eRA and cRA. Combined, these findings could reflect that increased activity in the OX40 systems facilitate to drive disease activity and autoantibody production in RA.
Trial registration NCT00660647, 10 April 2008.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-014-0474-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4230735  PMID: 25359291
4.  CXCL13 predicts disease activity in early rheumatoid arthritis and could be an indicator of the therapeutic ‘window of opportunity’ 
A key phenomenon in rheumatoid arthritis is the formation of lymphoid follicles in the inflamed synovial membrane. C-X-C motif chemokine 13 (CXCL13) is central in this process as it attracts C-X-C chemokine receptor type 5 (CXCR5)-expressing B cells and T follicular helper cells to the follicle. We here examine the role of CXCL13 and its association with disease in patients with treatment-naïve early rheumatoid arthritis.
Plasma samples from patients in the OPERA trial were examined for CXCL13 at treatment initiation and after 6 months of treatment with either methotrexate plus placebo (DMARD) (n = 37) or methotrexate plus adalimumab (DMARD + ADA) (n = 39). Treatment outcome was evaluated after 1 and 2 years. CXCL13 plasma levels in healthy volunteers (n = 38) were also examined.
Baseline CXCL13 plasma levels were increased in early rheumatoid arthritis patients in comparison with healthy volunteers. Also, plasma CXCL13 correlated positively with disease activity parameters; swollen joint count 28 (rho = 0.34) and 40 (rho = 0.39), visual analog score (rho = 0.38) and simplified disease activity index (rho = 0.25) (all P <0.05). CXCL13 levels decreased a significantly twofold more in the DMARD + ADA group than in the DMARD group. Baseline CXCL13 plasma levels in the DMARD group correlated inversely with disease activity parameters; disease activity score in 28 joints, four variables, C-reactive protein based (DAS28CRP) (rho = 0.58, P <0.05) at 12 months. High baseline CXCL13 was associated with remission (DAS28CRP less than 2.6) after 2 years.
In treatment-naïve early rheumatoid arthritis patients, plasma CXCL13 levels were associated with joint inflammation. Furthermore, patients with high baseline plasma CXCL13 levels had an improved chance of remission after 2 years. We propose that high CXCL13 concentrations indicate recent onset of inflammation that may respond better to early aggressive treatment. Thus, high levels of CXCL13 could reflect the ‘the window of opportunity’ for optimal treatment effect.
Trial registration NCT00660647. Registered 10 April 2008
PMCID: PMC4201737  PMID: 25249397
5.  Low-field magnetic resonance imaging or combined ultrasonography and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody improve correct classification of individuals as established rheumatoid arthritis: results of a population-based, cross-sectional study 
The aim of the present study was to evaluate the accuracy of two approaches using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or combined ultrasonography (US) and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody (ACPA) for diagnosis and classification of individuals with established rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
In 53 individuals from a population-based, cross-sectional study, historic fulfilment of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 1987 criteria (“classification”) or RA diagnosed by a rheumatologist (“diagnosis”) were used as standard references. The sensitivity, specificity and Area under Curve for Receiver Operating Characteristics curves (ROC-area: (sensitivity + specificity)/2) were calculated for “current fulfilment of the ACR 1987 criteria” (list format), “adapted ACR 1987 criteria” (list format, substituting IgM rheumatoid factor with ACPA and clinical joint swelling and erosions on radiography with synovitis and erosions detected by US on a semi-quantitative scale), and RA MRI scoring System (RAMRIS) scores on low-field MRI in the unilateral hand.
For the ACR 1987 criteria the ROC-area was 75% (sensitivity/specificity = 50%/100%) (with “classification” as standard reference) and 69% (44%/94%) (with “diagnosis” as standard reference), while for the adapted ACR 1987 criteria it was 86% (75%/97%) (classification) and 82% (72%/91%) (diagnosis). For RAMRIS synovitis score in metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints only (cut-off ≥5), the ROC-area (sensitivity/specificity) was 78% (62%/94%) (classification) and 85% (69%/100%) (diagnosis), while for the total synovitis score of MCP joints plus wrist (cut-off ≥10) it was 78% (62%/94%) (both classification and diagnosis).
Compared with the ACR 1987 criteria, low-field MRI alone or adapted criteria incorporating US and ACPA increased the correct classification and diagnosis of RA.
PMCID: PMC4132194  PMID: 25103610
Sensitivity and specificity; Ultrasonography; Magnetic resonance imaging; Rheumatoid arthritis; Epidemiology
6.  Patient’s global assessment of disease activity and patient’s assessment of general health for rheumatoid arthritis activity assessment: are they equivalent? 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;71(12):1942-1949.
To assess (A) determinants of patient’s global assessment of disease activity (PTGL) and patient’s assessment of general health (GH) scores of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients; (B) whether they are equivalent as individual variables; and (C) whether they may be used interchangeably in calculating common RA activity assessment composite indices.
Data of 7023 patients from 30 countries in the Quantitative Standard Monitoring of Patients with RA (QUEST-RA) was analysed. PTGL and GH determinants were assessed by mixed-effects analyses of covariance models. PTGL and GH equivalence was determined by Bland-Altman 95% limits of agreement (BALOA) and Lin’s coefficient of concordance (LCC). Concordance between PTGL and GH based Disease Activity Score 28 (DAS28), Clinical Disease Activity Index (CDAI) and Routine Assessment of Patient Index Data 3 (RAPID3) indices were calculated using LCC, and the level of agreement in classifying RA activity in four states (remission, low, moderate, high) using κ statistics.
Significant differences in relative and absolute contribution of RA and non-RA related variables in PTGL and GH ratings were noted. LCC of 0.64 and BALOA of −4.41 to 4.54 showed that PTGL and GH are not equivalent. There was excellent concordance (LCC 0.95–0.99) for PTGL and GH based DAS28, CDAI and RAPID3 indices, and >80% absolute agreement (κ statistics 0.75–0.84) in RA activity state classification for all three indices.
PTGL and GH ratings differ in their determinants. Although they are individually not equivalent, they may be used interchangeably for calculating composite indices for RA activity assessment.
PMCID: PMC3731741  PMID: 22532638
7.  Prevalence of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Southern Part of Denmark 
The aim of the present study was to estimate the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis in the southern part of Denmark. Using a screening questionnaire, telephone interview, register data, and a clinical examination cases were ascertained from a random sample of 4995 individuals over the age of 15. As case definition we used the original and modified 1987 American College of Rheumatology classification criteria. The overall point prevalence was 0.26% (95% confidence interval: 0.13-0.39) in the total sample and 0.35% (95% confidence interval: 0.17-0.52) among the responders; the cumulative prevalence was 0.75% (95% confidence interval: 0.52-0.97) in the total sample and 0.92% (95% confidence interval: 0.62-1.21) among the responders.
The cumulative prevalence was higher than in other studies combining the results of a survey with register data. The point prevalence was underestimated due to low participation rate in the clinical examination and remission among the participants.
PMCID: PMC3250064  PMID: 22216071
Rheumatoid arthritis; prevalence; survey; registers.
8.  Circulating surfactant protein -D is low and correlates negatively with systemic inflammation in early, untreated rheumatoid arthritis 
Surfactant protein D (SP-D) is a collectin with immuno-regulatory functions, which may depend on oligomerization. Anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties have been attributed to multimeric SP-D variants, while trimeric subunits per se have been suggested to enhance inflammation. Previously, we reported low circulating SP-D in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and the present investigation aims to extend these data by serial SP-D serum measurements, studies on synovial fluid, SP-D size distribution and genotyping in patients with early RA.
One-hundred-and-sixty disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) naïve RA patients with disease duration less than six months were studied prospectively for four years (CIMESTRA (Ciclosporine, Methotrexate, Steroid in RA) trial) including disease activity measures (C-reactive protein, joint counts and Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) score), autoantibodies, x-ray findings and SP-D. SP-D was quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and molecular size distribution was assessed by gel filtration chromatography. Further, SP-D Met11Thr single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis was performed.
Serum SP-D was significantly lower in RA patients at baseline compared with healthy controls (P < 0.001). SP-D increased slightly during follow-up (P < 0.001), but was still subnormal at four years after adjustment for confounders (P < 0.001). SP-D in synovial fluid was up to 2.5-fold lower than in serum. While multimeric variants were detected in serum, SP-D in synovial fluid comprised trimeric subunits only. There were no significant associations between genotype distribution and SP-D. Baseline SP-D was inversely associated to CRP and HAQ score. A similar relationship was observed regarding temporal changes in SP-D and CRP (zero to four years). SP-D was not associated to x-ray findings.
This study confirms that circulating SP-D is persistently subnormal in early and untreated RA despite a favourable therapeutic response obtained during four years of follow-up. SP-D correlated negatively to disease activity measures, but was not correlated with x-ray progression or SP-D genotype. These observations suggest that SP-D is implicated in RA pathogenesis at the protein level. The exclusive presence of trimeric SP-D in affected joints may contribute to the maintenance of joint inflammation.
Trial registration
( NCT00209859).
PMCID: PMC2888186  PMID: 20211020
9.  Cardiovascular disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: results from the QUEST-RA study 
We analyzed the prevalence of cardiovascular (CV) disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and its association with traditional CV risk factors, clinical features of RA, and the use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in a multinational cross-sectional cohort of nonselected consecutive outpatients with RA (The Questionnaires in Standard Monitoring of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis Program, or QUEST-RA) who were receiving regular clinical care.
The study involved a clinical assessment by a rheumatologist and a self-report questionnaire by patients. The clinical assessment included a review of clinical features of RA and exposure to DMARDs over the course of RA. Comorbidities were recorded; CV morbidity included myocardial infarction, angina, coronary disease, coronary bypass surgery, and stroke. Traditional risk factors recorded were hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, smoking, physical inactivity, and body mass index. Unadjusted and adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) (95% confidence interval [CI]) for CV morbidity were calculated using Cox proportional hazard regression models.
Between January 2005 and October 2006, the QUEST-RA project included 4,363 patients from 48 sites in 15 countries; 78% were female, more than 90% were Caucasian, and the mean age was 57 years. The prevalence for lifetime CV events in the entire sample was 3.2% for myocardial infarction, 1.9% for stroke, and 9.3% for any CV event. The prevalence for CV risk factors was 32% for hypertension, 14% for hyperlipidemia, 8% for diabetes, 43% for ever-smoking, 73% for physical inactivity, and 18% for obesity. Traditional risk factors except obesity and physical inactivity were significantly associated with CV morbidity. There was an association between any CV event and age and male gender and between extra-articular disease and myocardial infarction. Prolonged exposure to methotrexate (HR 0.85; 95% CI 0.81 to 0.89), leflunomide (HR 0.59; 95% CI 0.43 to 0.79), sulfasalazine (HR 0.92; 95% CI 0.87 to 0.98), glucocorticoids (HR 0.95; 95% CI 0.92 to 0.98), and biologic agents (HR 0.42; 95% CI 0.21 to 0.81; P < 0.05) was associated with a reduction of the risk of CV morbidity; analyses were adjusted for traditional risk factors and countries.
In conclusion, prolonged use of treatments such as methotrexate, sulfasalazine, leflunomide, glucocorticoids, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha blockers appears to be associated with a reduced risk of CV disease. In addition to traditional risk factors, extra-articular disease was associated with the occurrence of myocardial infarction in patients with RA.
PMCID: PMC2453774  PMID: 18325087
10.  Circulating VEGF As a Biological Marker in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis? Preanalytical and Biological Variability in Healthy Persons and in Patients 
Disease markers  2007;24(1):1-10.
Background: Soluble vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a promising biomarker in monitoring rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but studies of pre-analytical and biologic variability are few.
Methods: VEGF was measured by ELISA methods in serum and plasma from healthy persons and RA patients. Pre-analytical factors were investigated. A reference interval for VEGF was established in serum and plasma from 306 healthy persons. Diurnal, day-to-day, week-to-week, long-term variability, and impact of exercise were evaluated.
Results: Delayed processing time, room temperature, low centrifugal force and contamination of plasma with cellular elements lead to significant increases in VEGF levels, whereas storage for up to 2 years at −80°C or up to 10 freeze/thaw cycles did not affect VEGF levels. Serum VEGF levels were 7–10 fold higher than plasma VEGF levels. Reference intervals for VEGF (plasma: 45 pg/ml (range: non-detectable to 352); serum: 328 pg/ml (53–1791)) were independent of gender and age. Short- and long-term biologic variability included diurnal variation (sampling should take place after 7 AM) and impact of exercise (increased VEGF immediately after bicycling normalised within 1 hour).
Conclusions: Pre-analytical factors and biologic variability including diurnal variation and impact of exercise should be accounted for in future studies that include circulating VEGF as a biological marker.
PMCID: PMC3850601  PMID: 18057530
Rheumatoid arthritis; vascular endothelial growth factor; exercise; biological marker
11.  Incidence of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Southern part of Denmark from 1995 to 2001 
We estimated the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis in the southern part of Denmark from 1995 to 2001. At a rheumatology hospital serving a population of about 200 000 people over the age of 15, medical records were scrutinized. As case definition we used the tree and list format of 1987 American College of Rheumatology criteria for rheumatoid arthritis. The mean annual incidence rate per 100 000 person years was 40 in females, 21 in males, and 31 in females and males combined. The incidence of rheumatoid arthritis in Denmark is in accordance with recent studies from North America, the UK, and Northern European countries. The aetiology of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown but this study indicates that in these populations the exposure to non-genetic host and environmental aetiological factors is similar.
PMCID: PMC2581825  PMID: 19088896
Rheumatoid arthritis; incidence; epidemiology; register
12.  Can magnetic resonance imaging differentiate undifferentiated arthritis? 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(6):243-245.
A high sensitivity for the detection of inflammatory and destructive changes in inflammatory joint diseases makes magnetic resonance imaging potentially useful for assigning specific diagnoses, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis in arthritides, that remain undifferentiated after conventional clinical, biochemical and radiographic examinations. With recent data as the starting point, the present paper describes the current knowledge on magnetic resonance imaging in the differential diagnosis of undifferentiated arthritis.
PMCID: PMC1297592  PMID: 16277699

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