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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease of unspecified etiology that is manifest by persistent inflammation of the synovium. Considerable efforts have been undertaken globally to study the microenvironment of the inflamed synovium, with many encouraging and enlightening results that bring us closer to unmasking the precise etiologies of RA. Subsequent to these efforts, it has been discovered that CD68-positive macrophages present in abundance in the synovial sublining of the inflamed synovium rescind with treatments that induce clinical improvement in RA. Examination of serial synovial biopsies is now commonly used for screening purposes during early drug development, and the number of centers able to perform synovial tissue biopsy sampling according to standardized methods is increasing.
Having implemented the use of serial synovial tissue biopsies to evaluate the effects of new treatments on the group level in early proof of principle studies, it is the ambition of the OMERACT Synovial Tissue Group to identify synovial diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers that could be used in individual patients. Therefore, we started a prospective study termed the Synoviomics Project aimed at the identification of novel diagnostic and prognostic synovial biomarkers. We will use straightforward and powerful technologies to analyze patient material and assess clinical parameters to identify such biomarkers. These markers may be used in the future to identify patients who are at risk of having persistent and destructive disease and to start tailor-made targeted therapies in an early phase to prevent autonomous disease progression and irreversible joint damage.
Supported by the OMERACT Special Interest Group on Synovial Analysis in Clinical Trials, the EULAR Synovitis Study Group and the European Community’s FP6 funding (Autocure).