Bench to Bedside Approach for Inflammatory Disease Research
Associate Professors Susanna Proudman and Vidya Limaye, rheumatologists at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, are some of the first to take a bench to bedside approach to their research into rare rheumatic diseases and the effects on a patient’s quality of life.
Dedicating their research to patient cohorts with specific inflammatory diseases, A/Prof Proudman’s research focuses on early rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma and A/Prof Limaye’s interest is around inflammatory muscle diseases.
A/Prof Limaye explained that because these diseases are rare, they are not commonly understood, leading to the pressing need for research in these areas.
“We have accrued among the largest cohorts of patients in Australia with these particular diseases. They come to us knowing that we have developed programs that deliver best practice care,” said A/Prof Proudman.
The point of difference offered by these programs is the time dedicated to meeting with patients and applying the best practices to meet their individual needs.
“Since we have a large cohort of patients we have become experts in best practice for the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases – I think our patients benefit from that,” A/Prof Proudman said.
Recently A/Prof Proudman’s research has led to exciting discoveries around the benefits of fish oil in controlling the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.
“This was a big success. We discovered patients didn’t need as many of the disease modifying therapies that we normally use to manage the disease.”
Drawing on this success, A/Prof Proudman is now part of a nationwide Australian study looking into ways to prevent some of the most life threatening complications associated with scleroderma, an autoimmune disease of the body’s connective tissues.
“There have been a range of studies and publications on how to identify some of the most life threatening complications of scleroderma earlier to treat better and improve survival rates,” she said.
“Our group ,which includes interstate collaborators, received a grant to look at the addition of anticoagulation (agents used to prevent the formation of blood clots) to the conventional therapy to see whether that improves survival outcomes.”
Also managing a significant patient database, A/Prof Limaye’s research is looking into the inflammatory muscle disease, inflammatory myositis (inflammation of the muscles), which is commonly associated with scleroderma.
“Within our research we have identified antibodies that are seen in particular sub groups of myositis and may impact the way a patient responds to certain treatments,” A/Prof Limaye said.
“We also have a project that is trying to work out the risk of heart disease in patients with myositis.”
For both A/Prof Proudman and A/Prof Limaye, the rewards come from meeting with patients on a daily basis and having them involved in the research process.
“Our work is mainly clinical research, the patients we deal with get the best quality of care in the end,” A/Prof Proudman said.
Building their patient numbers, A/Prof Proudman and A/Prof Limaye’s research is gaining international attention with a number of researchers approaching them for collaborations internationally and asking their help to test new therapies.
“They come to us to analyse our patient information and samples, provided anonymously, and to test new therapies which have come from this type of research,” said A/Prof Proudman.
“It’s that bed to bedside translational research.”