This article is part of the supplement: Current and new antitumor necrosis factor agents in perspective
Expanding the armamentarium for the spondyloarthropathies
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Arthritis Res Ther 2004, 6(Suppl 2):S36-S43 doi:10.1186/ar1012Published: 21 June 2004
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a member of the family of spondyloarthropathies, which are inflammatory arthritides largely involving the axial skeleton and commonly accompanied by peripheral arthritis. Genetic factors, particularly the presence of HLA-B27, are major contributors to the susceptibility for AS. Despite some therapeutic advances, the treatment options for patients with AS and related disorders have been limited. Several lines of evidence have led to the hypothesis that patients with AS might benefit from treatment with tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Specifically, TNF concentrations are known to be significantly elevated in the synovium of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), in the inflamed gut of patients with inflammatory bowel disease, and in the inflamed sacroiliac joints of patients with AS. The anti-TNF agents have been shown to be of benefit in, and currently have indications for, RA (etanercept, infliximab, adalimumab), Crohn's disease (infliximab), and psoriatic arthritis (etanercept). Because the spondyloarthropathies share pathogenetic mechanisms with the above-specified disease states, studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-TNF agents in several disorders, including AS. Data from clinical trials so far with infliximab and etanercept show that patients with AS and related disorders achieve significant improvement in clinical signs and symptoms based on validated outcomes measures. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can facilitate the early diagnosis of AS. Studies with infliximab using MRI together with updated scoring methods demonstrated significant decreases in associated spinal inflammation. TNF antagonist therapy is well tolerated in patients with AS, with a side effect profile consistent with the prior experience of patients with RA.