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1.  Kitasato Symposium 2009: New Prospects for Cytokine Inhibition 
The Kitasato Symposium 2009: New Prospects for Cytokine Inhibition was held in Berlin, Germany from 7 to 9 May 2009. The key aims of this meeting were to bring together a group of front-line researchers and rheumatologists to evaluate the use of cytokine blockade and to examine the role of certain cytokines in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. A keynote lecture delivered by Professor Jean-Michel Dayer provided an up-to-date overview of the interactions occurring between the immune system and acute phase proteins. Other speakers discussed the role of cytokines in rheumatoid arthritis, including their role in joint destruction, as well as their regulatory role upon T cells and B cells. The involvement of cytokines in other autoimmune diseases was also addressed.
PMCID: PMC3003512  PMID: 20067593
2.  Rapid and sustained improvements in health-related quality of life, fatigue, and other patient-reported outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with certolizumab pegol plus methotrexate over 1 year: results from the RAPID 1 randomized controlled trial 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(6):R170.
The objective of this study was to assess the impact of certolizumab pegol (CZP) treatment on health-related quality of life (HRQoL), fatigue and other patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Patients with active RA (N = 982) were randomized 2:2:1 to subcutaneous CZP (400 mg at weeks 0, 2 and 4; followed by CZP 200 mg or 400 mg) plus methotrexate (MTX) every other week, or placebo (PBO) plus MTX. PRO assessments included HRQoL, fatigue, physical function, arthritis pain and disease activity. Adjusted mean changes from baseline in all PROs were obtained using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) applying last observation carried forward (LOCF) imputation. The proportion of patients achieving clinically meaningful improvements in each PRO was obtained using logistic regression and by applying non-responder imputation to missing values after rescue medication or withdrawal. The correlations between PRO responses and clinical responses were also assessed by tetrachoric correlation using non-responder imputation.
Patients treated with CZP plus MTX reported significant (P < 0.001), clinically meaningful improvements in HRQoL at the first assessment (week 12); reductions in fatigue, disease activity and pain and improvements in physical function were reported at week 1. In particular, CZP-treated patients reported improvements in mental health. Mean changes from baseline in the SF-36 Mental Component Summary (MCS) at week 52 for CZP 200 mg and 400 mg plus MTX, and PBO plus MTX were 6.4, 6.4 and 2.1, respectively (P < 0.001). In addition, mental health and vitality scores in CZP-treated patients approached age- and gender-adjusted US population norms. Improvements in all PROs were sustained. Similar benefits were reported with both CZP doses. Changes in SF-36 MCS scores had the lowest correlation with disease activity scores (DAS28) and American College of Rheumatology 20% improvement (ACR20) response rates, while improvements in pain showed the highest correlation.
Treatment with CZP plus MTX resulted in rapid and sustained improvements in all PROs, indicating that the benefits of CZP extend beyond clinical efficacy endpoints into areas that are more relevant and meaningful for patients on a daily basis.
Trial Registration NCT00152386.
PMCID: PMC3003523  PMID: 19909548
3.  SiPaGene: A new repository for instant online retrieval, sharing and meta-analyses of GeneChip® expression data 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:98.
Microarray expression profiling is becoming a routine technology for medical research and generates enormous amounts of data. However, reanalysis of public data and comparison with own results is laborious. Although many different tools exist, there is a need for more convenience and online analysis with restriction of access and user specific sharing options. Furthermore, most of the currently existing tools do not use the whole range of statistical power provided by the MAS5.0/GCOS algorithms.
With a current focus on immunology, infection, inflammation, tissue regeneration and cancer we developed a database platform that can load preprocessed Affymetrix GeneChip expression data for immediate access. Group or subgroup comparisons can be calculated online, retrieved for candidate genes, transcriptional activity in various biological conditions and compared with different experiments. The system is based on Oracle 9i with algorithms in java and graphical user interfaces implemented as java servlets. Signals, detection calls, signal log ratios, change calls and corresponding p-values were calculated with MAS5.0/GCOS algorithms. MIAME information and gene annotations are provided via links to GEO and EntrezGene. Users access via https protocol their own, shared or public data. Sharing is comparison- and user-specific with different levels of rights. Arrays for group comparisons can be selected individually. Twenty-two different group comparison parameters can be applied in user-defined combinations on single or multiple group comparisons. Identified genes can be reviewed online or downloaded. Optimized selection criteria were developed and reliability was demonstrated with the "Latin Square" data set. Currently more than 1,000 arrays, 10,000 pairwise comparisons and 500 group comparisons are presented with public or restricted access by different research networks or individual users.
SiPaGene is a repository and a high quality tool for primary analysis of GeneChips. It exploits the MAS5.0/GCOS pairwise comparison algorithm, enables restricted access and user specific sharing. It does not aim for a complete representation of all public arrays but for high quality analysis with stepwise integration of reference signatures for detailed meta-analyses. Development of additional tools like functional annotation networks based on expression information will be future steps towards a systematic biological analysis of expression profiles.
PMCID: PMC2657156  PMID: 19265543
4.  Bronchoalveoloar lavage fluid cytokines and chemokines as markers and predictors for the outcome of interstitial lung disease in systemic sclerosis patients 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(4):R111.
Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a frequent manifestation of systemic sclerosis (SSc), and cytokines can contribute to the disease pathology. The aim of the current study was to identify specific changes in cytokine levels that may serve as disease markers and possible targets for therapy.
Cytokines were measured with bioplex analysis in 38 bronchoalveolar fluids (BALFs) from 32 SSc patients (27 with alveolitis and 11 without alveolitis) and 26 control patients. In the case of SSc patients, cytokines were correlated with the respective bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cell differentiation, lung function, and thoracic HR-CT score. For 35 BALF samples derived from 29 SSc patients, follow-up investigations of clinical data, lung-function parameter, or thoracic HR-CT scans were available to evaluate the predictive capacity of BALF cytokines and chemokines.
High IL-7 levels were characteristic of SSc-associated interstitial lung disease (ILD) and, in addition, when compared with ILD-negative SSc patients, ILD-positive SSc patients revealed higher IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, and CCL2 (MCP-1) BALF levels. High CCL2 and IL-8 BALF concentrations were associated with neutrophilic and mixed alveolitis. Cytokine levels of IL-4, IL-8, and CCL2 correlated negatively with lung-function parameters; CCL2 concentrations also correlated with HR-CT scores. High concentrations of several cytokines were associated with the progress of ILD and end-stage ILD. Univariate analyses revealed high IL-2 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) levels as the best predictors for progressive disease, together with lung-function parameters, young age, and neutrophilic alveolitis. Multivariate analyses partially confirmed these results but did not sufficiently converge because of the limited number of patients.
The association of BALF cytokines with lung fibrosis and its progress suggests that cytokines contribute to the pathogenesis of ILD and hence could be regarded as potential therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC2745793  PMID: 19615053
5.  Diagnostic value of anti-topoisomerase I antibodies in a large monocentric cohort 
In the present study, the detection of anti-topoisomerase I (anti-topo I) autoantibodies was evaluated for diagnosis and risk assessment of systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients in a well characterized large monocentric cohort.
Sera from patients with SSc (diffuse n = 96, limited n = 113), from patients with overlap syndromes (n = 51), from patients with other diseases associated with SSc (n = 20), as well as from disease controls (n = 487) were analysed for the presence of anti-topo I antibodies by line immunoblot assay and ELISA. Assessment of organ manifestations was performed as proposed by the European Scleroderma Trial and Research network.
The applied test systems for the detection of anti-topo I antibodies revealed a diagnostic sensitivity for SSc of approximately 24% and a diagnostic specificity of at least 99.6%. The sensitivity to identify patients with diffuse SSc amounted to 60%. Patients with anti-topo I antibodies showed a higher burden of skin and lung fibrosis, contractures, electrocardiogram changes, as well as digital ulcers and had more active disease than antibody-negative patients. Signal strengths correlated only weakly with disease activity, with modified Rodnan skin score, with predicted forced vital capacity, and with predicted diffusion capacity levels (P = 0.01, ρ = 0.234, ρ = 0.413, ρ = -0.215, ρ = -0.219). High signal intensities were associated with an increased mortality in diffuse SSc patients (P = 0.003).
Diagnosis and risk assessment of SSc patients can be supported by the detection of anti-topo I antibodies. Signal intensities as obtained by line immunoblot assay or ELISA can be used as a surrogate marker for fibrosis, active disease and worse prognosis.
PMCID: PMC2688262  PMID: 19232127
6.  Antibodies against PM/Scl-75 and PM/Scl-100 are independent markers for different subsets of systemic sclerosis patients 
Anti-PM/Scl antibodies are present in sera from patients with polymyositis (PM), systemic sclerosis (SSc), and PM/SSc overlap syndromes. The prevalence of antibodies against the 75- and 100-kDa PM/Scl proteins and their clinical associations have not been studied in SSc patients in detail so far but could provide a valuable tool for risk assessment in these patients. Furthermore, it remains speculative whether commercially available test systems detecting only anti-PM/Scl-100 antibodies are sufficient in SSc patients.
Two hundred eighty sera from SSc patients, patients with other connective tissue diseases (n = 209), and healthy blood donors (n = 50) were analyzed for the presence of anti-PM/Scl-75 and anti-PM/Scl-100 antibodies by means of line immunoblot assay. For the SSc patients, possible associations between both subsets of anti-PM/Scl antibodies with clinical and laboratory findings were studied.
The determination of anti-PM/Scl reactivity revealed a diagnostic sensitivity of 12.5% and a specificity of 96.9% for SSc. Among anti-PM/Scl-positive SSc patients, 10.4% and 7.1% were positive for anti-PM/Scl-75 and anti-PM/Scl-100 antibodies, respectively. The highest prevalences of reactivity to PM/Scl were detected in diffuse SSc (19.8%) and overlap syndromes (17.6%). Patients with diffuse SSc showed mainly an anti-PM/Scl-75 response, whereas most cases of overlap syndromes were characterized by reactivity to both PM/Scl antigens. The presence of anti-PM/Scl-75/100 antibodies was associated with muscular and lung involvements as well as with digital ulcers; pulmonary arterial hypertension was found less frequently. Anti-PM/Scl-75 antibodies were detected more frequently in younger and more active patients with joint contractures. Anti-PM/Scl-100 antibodies were associated with creatine kinase elevation; however, gastrointestinal involvements were observed less frequently.
Anti-PM/Scl antibodies are common in distinct SSc subsets and are associated with several clinical symptoms. They are directed mainly to the PM/Scl-75 antigen. Consequently, the detection of anti-PM/Scl antibodies by tests based only on PM/Scl-100 as an antigen source may miss a relevant number of SSc patients positive for these antibodies.
PMCID: PMC2688254  PMID: 19220911

Results 1-6 (6)