Can early, aggressive treatment turn off juvenile arthritis?

Arthritis 220x180Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the fourth most common acquired disease of childhood, following only asthma, diabetes and epilepsy. But treating JIA is difficult, and only a small percentage of children with JIA achieve remission without medication. Many suffer from ongoing arthritis that causes joint destruction, deformity, disability and decreased quality of life.

Dr. Carol Wallace, a pediatric rheumatologist at Seattle Children’s, is working to change that. She’s investigating whether aggressive treatment within a year of onset will result in better outcomes for patients with JIA by halting progression of the disease. The multisite clinical trial she’s leading, known as the TRial of Early Aggressive Therapy of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (TREAT - JIA) is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and a partnership with Amgen. The study is the first of its kind in children.

“We want to improve treatment for our patients, and we want to achieve long-lasting remission,” says Wallace. “To date, no treatments have consistently accomplished this. We believe early, aggressive treatment is the answer, based on similar research conducted in adults.”

The TREAT- JIA study — which includes children from 15 medical centers across the United States — compares two different aggressive treatments. If the study demonstrates the ability to prevent disease progression, it will set a new standard of care for children worldwide.

“Even though combinations of medications and injections can eventually stop active disease, when those medications are stopped, disease returns within two years for the majority of children,” Wallace explains. “We must find a way to achieve long-lasting remission for children with JIA.”

"Oncologists have acheived impressive outcomes for kids with cancer because they have studied and refined treatments. It's time to do the same for kids with JIA." ~ Dr. Carol Wallace