Arthritis – it’s not just for seniors. More than 24,000 children in Canada live with the painful, chronic disease that can cause fevers and permanent destruction of joints, leading to a life of permanent disability. A class of powerful drugs called biologics can dramatically reduce joint inflammation and pain and prevent joint damage in the longer term. The drugs cost as much as $400,000 per year, though, and children may only qualify after traditional treatments have failed, by which time permanent damage has occurred. Evidence shows that early short-term biologic treatment, even for as little as three months, can result in long-lasting disease control in the most severely affected children, possibly even curing the disease.
UCAN CURE will let doctors and families quickly know who needs biologics, which biologic will work best for an individual child, and when the biologic can be safely stopped. The team will develop the first genomics-based, low-cost biomarker blood test to rapidly identify the best treatment for each child, thus completely transforming the treatment of childhood arthritis. A smartphone- and web-based system of eHealth apps will give children and their families a powerful voice and establish an integrated network of patients, physicians and researchers. An updatable model of the risks, benefits and costs of biologic therapy will help inform health-policy decision makers.
The research is expected to have immediate impact on treatment for children with arthritis, improving their health and the quality of life for themselves and their families.