Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

People with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) could soon benefit from a new drug treatment that not only suppresses inflammation but also significantly reduces patient reported pain scores. Otilimab is a monoclonal antibody, biologic drug, which targets and suppresses the inflammatory cytokine GM-CSF.

A woman suffering with rheumatoid arthritis rubs her hands

In a multicentre, dose-ranging trial, led by Professor Chris Buckley at the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham, and sponsored by the Pharmaceutical company GSK, researchers explored the clinical effects of otilimab to prevent inflammation, tissue damage and pain in people with RA.

The study evaluated the effects of five doses of otilimab (22·5 mg, 45 mg, 90 mg, 135 mg, or 180 mg) versus a placebo. 222 patients with active RA received weekly subcutaneous injections for 5 weeks, which was reduced to every other week for one year.  A range of patient reported outcomes for function and pain were measured. Otilimab treatment led to a rapid reduction in tender and swollen joints but patients also reported very significant improvements in pain scores. 

Professor Buckley, Kennedy Professor of Translational Rheumatology at the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham said: “The assumption has always been that if drugs suppress inflammation, they will also help suppress pain, but this hasn’t always been the case. Now, for the first time we are seeing a biologic therapy, the first in the rheumatoid space, that offers two for the price of one. It's suppressing inflammation, but it's also helping pain, and that’s very important to the patient.”

The trial was novel in that it offered an escape arm for patients receiving the placebo or in whom the drug dose to which they were randomised did not achieve a reduction in their disease activity. “One of the problems with placebo arms is it’s hard to get people to go into the study if they know they might get a dummy drug ,” said Prof. Buckley. “In this trial, if a patient wasn’t seeing improvements after 12 weeks they were automatically transferred to the highest dose of otilimab at 180 mg and we were able to then see the improvements.”

This study helped lay the infrastructure groundwork for the CATALYST Trial, also a collaboration between Oxford and Birmingham, which is measuring the effectiveness of GM- CSF and another anti-inflammatory drug (anti TNF) in the treatment of COVID-19.

The results of the trial have been recently published in The Lancet Rheumatology.

The research was funded by GSK.

Similar stories

£1.2M to improve diagnosis of emergency spinal condition

The National Institute for Health and Care Research has awarded an Advanced Fellowship to Dr David Metcalfe to study the diagnosis of the spinal condition, cauda equina syndrome.

Professor Chris Lavy appointed to WHO technical advisory group

Congratulations to Professor Chris Lavy, who has been appointed to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) technical advisory group for integrated clinical care for a period of two years.

Oxford receives NIHR funding to test anti-TNF on post operative delirium

Researchers at the University of Oxford have been awarded a grant from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to investigate whether anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) therapy can reduce or prevent post operative delirium/cognitive deficit.

Gene variant links trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome

A new NDORMS study, published in The Lancet Rheumatology, has found a genetic variant that increases the risk of both carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger, and opens the door for new therapies that involve blocking the IGF-1 pathway.

Kennedy programmes support early career researchers

Since 2013 the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology has been running a Career Development Programme, a scheme to help early career researchers launch their own independent laboratories, and more recently the Innovator Investigator Programme to bring new technologies to core research themes.

OCTRU collaboration boosts understanding of COVID vaccine response

Working with researchers across multiple universities, the Oxford Clinical Trials Unit (OCTRU) played a key role in delivering results of the national VROOM trial (Vaccine Response On Off Methotrexate).