Benaroya Research Institute

On July 5, 2013, Chris Wood became extremely ill from food poisoning he contracted at a Fourth of July picnic. But in addition to the normal, highly unpleasant symptoms, Chris’s joints were so swollen he could hardly stand, walk or write. Frightened and having no health insurance, Chris made his way to the Union Gospel Mission in Yakima, Wash., for treatment.

Chris’s doctor confirmed a salmonella infection, yet the cause of his joint inflammation was still unclear. For this, Chris was prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids that proved only minimally effective. A family friend then suggested that Chris be seen by her Virginia Mason Medical Center rheumatologist, Jeffrey Carlin, MD, who is also a BRI clinical investigator.

“Almost instantly, Dr. Carlin said I had axial spondyloarthritis,” Chris says. “Tests showed I have the gene indicated for this disease and that it was probably triggered by the salmonella infection.”

Spondyloarthritis (SpA) is an umbrella term for a group of immune-mediated rheumatic diseases. Some forms of this arthritis are associated with other autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriasis, and one type is triggered by an infection. It is not known what triggers the onset of the arthritis, but there does seem to be a genetic predisposition, associated with the gene HLA-B27, to develop these diseases. Symptoms include painful inflammation of the spine, sacroiliac joints and peripheral joints and pain and stiffness in the back, the neck, the back of the heel and underneath the foot.

Fortunately for Chris, Dr. Carlin was conducting a clinical trial for axial SpA patients. Chris was quickly screened for and enrolled onto the study for which he now receives biweekly injections of a monoclonal antibody called adalimumab.

“The goal of this trial is to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of continuing adalimumab for maintaining remission in participants without X-ray evidence of spondyloarthritis,” says Dr. Carlin. “Adalimumab is already FDA approved for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It cannot cure these diseases, but can control these disorders very effectively.”

“I’m so thankful for this trial,” says Chris. “Within about two weeks my symptoms were gone.”

With his arthritis under control, Chris can now focus on starting his new career as an electrician while pursuing his favorite pastime: salmon and steelhead fishing.

“For me, the chance of having no arthritis is better than the possibility of maybe having some side effects. I’d really encourage people to be open-minded about clinical research.”

Orginally published on BRING IT ON Newsletter - Spring 2014

Living With A Disease

March 8, 2014

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