Huge Untapped Potential for Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment by Targeting OX40

Research into rheumatoid arthritis is of growing importance due to the increasing proportion of elderly people. In 2017 there were 5.7 million prevalent cases of the condition in the eight major markets (8MM*) and this is set to grow to 6.6 million in 2027, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

A new study led by experts from the University of Tsukuba first published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases in July found that OX40-expressing follicular helper T cells contributed to inflammation by regulating a chemical modification of autoantibodies known as sialylation. Sialylation of autoantibodies has been shown to contribute to the onset of experimental arthritis in mice, through a subset of T helper cells.

Furthermore, the study found that OX40-expressing (IL-17-producing) follicular helper T cells are present at increased levels in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Blocking the interaction between OX40 on the surface of follicular helper T cells and OX40L on antibody-producing B cells led to reduction of sialylation on autoantibodies in mice.

GlobalData identified 7 active pipeline programs that target OX40L and 30 that target the OX40L receptor, however, none of these programs are currently in development for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Mark Needham, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData commented: “It will be interesting to see if this new research will lead to drugs being repositioned for arthritis treatment in the near future given the large number of pipeline programs currently directed at OX40. While three of the pipeline programs are being for immunology indications such as lupus, the majority of pipeline programs targeting OX40 are being developed for the treatment of cancer.”

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease that causes pain, reduced quality of life, and increased mortality. While the symptoms and risk factors are well-known, the underlying mechanisms that lead to initial onset of the disease remain elusive.

*8MM = US, 5EU (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK), China and Japan.

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Quotes provided by Mark Needham, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData.

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