(RxWiki News) Managing rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult, especially because the disease can get worse before symptoms surface or worsen.
In many cases today, doctors gauge arthritis activity only by counting affected joints.
Now a new blood test may help doctors track the disease activity of rheumatoid arthritis. The test could be used to show how well patients are responding to treatment.
"Tell your doctor if you are experiencing more arthritis pain."
According to lead author Jeffrey Curtis, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, doctors used to measure disease activity through observation. That is, they counted the number of tender and swollen joints and measured patients' pain and joint function.
Certain blood tests are used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. However, doctors have not had access to such a simple blood test that can be used alongside their in-office observations.
Dr. Curtis explains that the new test, called Vectra DA, measures the activity of underlying disease processes, rather than looking for external signs of rheumatoid arthritis. As such, it could be used in conjunction with tender and swollen joints counts.
He believes the test could be used to assess treatment response in patients. Using the new blood test, doctors could know within a few weeks, rather than a few months, if a certain treatment is working for a particular patient.
Vectra DA is a multi-biomarker disease activity test developed by Crescendo Bioscience. It measures inflammation by looking for 12 biomarkers called cytokines.
Dr. Curtis says the test could also work well as a predictor of future arthritis flare-ups and joint damage. However, these uses have not been tested yet.
The study - which included 512 patients with rheumatoid arthritis - is published in Arthritis Care and Research.
Dr. Curtis receives research support from the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and various pharmaceutical companies. He has also acted as a consultant for Crescendo Bioscience.