Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation

Rheumatoid Arthritis



Researchers Revolutionise The Treatment Of Rheumathoid Arthritis
First Published: Investigator - August 2003
Updated: July 2011


After more than a decade of international collaboration, Flinders researchers have helped to develop a new therapy for the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis - a debilitating disease that effects 2% of the population.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in the western world, affecting most small joints in the body. While there is no cure, Flinders research, led by Professor Malcolm Smith, Head of Rheumatology at Flinders Medical Centre, has made a number of significant advances in the pain management and slowing the progression of this devastating disease.

Flinders investigators continue to work on early diagnosis and pain management of rheumatoid arthritis to help slow the progression of the disease. The FMC Arthritis Tissue Bank, established in 1996 by Professor Smith, provides a rich resource for researchers wanting to understand the impact of existing and new drug therapies. This resource has been utilised by many research groups both within Australia and internationally, to further our understanding of this inflammatory joint condition.

This research is now resulting in significant breakthroughs in the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, with a number of new, more effective treatments available on the PBS and the promise of more to come in the near future.

These treatments will revolutionise the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis but are costly (about $25,000 per year to treat one patient), so selecting the right patient for the right treatment is important.

The latest study being undertaken by Professor Smith’s research group, run by his PhD student Dr. Mihir Wechalekar, is using the Tissue bank resource to try and find answers to this problem of treatment selection.

"At present our research efforts are establishing whether taking a biopsy before someone starts treatment will direct what their outcome will be or, alternatively, by taking the biopsy during treatment we can determine whether the treatment is working or not, and if so change the therapy,” Professor Smith said. “Ultimately, we want to avoid treating people unnecessarily."

Professor Smith was awarded a member of the Order of Australia in the Queens Birthday honours in 2011 in recognition of his service to Australian Rheumatology and Rheumatology research.

© 2016 Flinders Foundation. All Rights Reserved.