Novelty and hope make news at the ACR scientific meeting

Kelly Young

Over 16,000 people attended the recent 75th annual American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Scientific Meeting in Chicago. The ACR meeting is primarily a scientific meeting, presenting the most current research especially in serious rheumatic diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. This year, 2,122 scientific posters were presented and 2,644 abstracts were published to report progress by investigators. There were also workshops and courses to improve clinical care.

This was the second ACR meeting that I attended as a patient. I have lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis for several years, reporting the patient viewpoint to the industry and bringing news of research to patients. This article details some highlights of the big week’s events.

“I have lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis for several years, reporting the patient viewpoint to the industry and bringing news of research to patients.”

Pfizer’s imposing presence

Pfizer dominated chatter about the treatment pipeline, presenting data about its novel JAK inhibitor for an oral treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. The buzz was enough to force some of their oral sessions to broadcast a feed into overflow spaces. Selected investigators for Pfizer and representatives reported on the numerous phase 2 and 3 ORAL Trials as well as long-term extension studies.

The JAK compound, tofacitinib, has now been tested in almost 5,000 RA patients in approximately 35 countries as mono-therapy and in combination with other disease-modifying medications. Efficacy was similar to IV and injectable Biologics that are currently approved for RA treatment with approximately 65% of patients achieving at least ACR20 (20% reduction in disease activity). Patient reported outcomes also showed significant improvement and radiographic progression was arrested when measured at six months with the higher dose.

Figure 1: ACR Meeting 2012– photograph courtesy of Kelly Young

Cancer news

Several studies were presented about cancer and Rheumatoid Arthritis as a result of questions about whether the disease or its treatments result in an increased cancer risk. One study evaluated data from the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register. Kimme Hyrich, MD, PhD of the University of Manchester reported that, after following patients for up to five years, “the risk of cancer was no different in patients receiving anti-TNF compared to those who had never received this therapy.”

“The JAK compound, tofacitinib, has now been tested in almost 5,000 RA patients”

A population-based study in Sweden determined relative risks for malignant melanoma to be higher with TNF-treated individuals, with the absolute risk remaining very low. Julia Simard, ScD described the nationwide study showing malignant melanoma accounts for only 7% of cancers with RA. Patients selected for and treated with anti-TNF therapy had an eighty percent higher risk of malignant melanoma, but they found no increased risk of other types of cancers in their group.

Figure 2: Julia Simard, ScD at ACR – photograph courtesy of Kelly Young

More novelty

The Exhibit Hall is a favorite arena for many attendees, with a slight carnival ambiance. Companies put their best high heels forward with world class million dollar displays.

Figure 3 : Exhibit Hall at the ACR scientific meeting – photograph courtesy of Kelly Young

Amidst the glamour, the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation (RPF), a young non-profit, became the first to present the RA patient point of view with an exhibit that included a five minute video and two posters. RPF was very well received, even without a latte machine.

Figure 4: RPF booth at ACR scientific meeting 2012 – photograph courtesy of Kelly Young

What else was new this year? I worked with some fine rheumatologists to create our first #Rheum Tweet-up which featured patients, doctors, researchers, and industry representatives. Topics like participatory medicine, finding common ground, and breaking down barriers made this two hour event as electrifying as any official session at the meeting.

Further Reading:

1. Personal perspective on the 2011 ACR meeting for the patient community

About the Author:

Kelly Young is an advocate providing ways for patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. Through her writing, consulting, speaking, and use of social media, she is building a more refined and accurate awareness of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community, creating ways to empower RA patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment, and bringing recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In 2009, Kelly created Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, a comprehensive website about RA of almost 600 pages. She was the first patient and blogger to attend the American College of Rheumatology Scientific Meeting as a member of the press.

Kelly serves on the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Advisory Board. In addition to her daily blogs on Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, Kelly writes periodically for other newsletters and websites, including Orthopedic Posterous, WEGO Health, and Health Care Professionals Live. There are almost 12,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook Fan page. Kelly is the mother of five, a home-schooler, Bible teacher, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. You can learn more about Kelly by following her on Twitter or YouTube, or connecting with her on LinkedIn. She created and moderates the weekly Twitter chat on rheumatology topics, which can be followed with the hashtag: #rheum.

What were your highlights of the ACR scientific meeting?