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British scientists receive Lasker Prize for discovering new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

Two of Britain's leading biomedical researchers have received the prestigious 2003 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research for their discovery of anti-TNF (tumour necrosis factor) treatment as an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and other related diseases.

The Lasker Awards for basic clinical and medical research have come to be known as 'America's Nobels' and 66 recipients of the Lasker award have gone on to receive Nobel prizes. They were first awarded in 1946.

It is only the third time that Rheumatology research has been honoured with a Lasker Award. The first was for the discovery of corticosteroid in 1949; the second for joint replacement surgery in 1974, and anti-TNF treatment is the third.

Emeritus Professor Sir Ravinder Maini and Professor Marc Feldmann, both based at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, a division of Imperial College London's Faculty of Medicine, at Charing Cross Hospital, began working together 20 years ago to establish which molecules in rheumatoid arthritis were driving the inflammation and joint destruction, seeking new avenues of treatment. Their research was funded by long-term core support by the Arthritis Research Campaign (arc), and involved a team of scientists and clinicians.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the immune system. It affects about 400,000 people in the UK, causing much pain, and progressive joint damage leading to chronic disability and reduced life expectancy. Previous treatment options still left almost half of all patients with symptoms of continuing disease, deterioration of physical function and progressive joint damage.

In a series of experiments using tissue taken from joints, Feldmann and Maini investigated the role of cytokines, protein messenger molecules that drive inflammation, and found that a number of proinflammatory cytokines were indeed present in the inflamed joints. However they found that a single cyt
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Contact: Tony Stephenson
at.stephenson@imperial.co.uk
44-207-594-6712
Imperial College London
13-Sep-2003


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