A new British research suggests that a simple blood test could lead to a 'new era' of tailored therapy for rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disabling autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body's own joints.
Studies have shown patients with certain immune system antibodies may respond more to an advanced form of treatment.
Almost 80 per cent of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients are believed to have one of the two antibodies.
Results of the new study demonstrate the "biologic" drug rituximab, also known as MabThera, which targets the immune system, can help them.
However, the drug may not benefit 20 per cent of patients who test negative.
"This is an important breakthrough in the treatment of this chronic and debilitating condition, heralding the beginning of an exciting new era for patients, physicians and indeed the entire RA community," the Independent quoted Prof John Isaacs, from the University of Newcastle, who led the research, as saying.
Prof Isaacs added: "Conventional practice is based on treating the patient population as a whole, leading to some patients cycling on ineffective treatments before achieving the optimum response.
"By identifying in advance which groups are most likely to respond to, or to have an enhanced response to, drugs like rituximab, we can ensure they are treated early enough to prevent irreversible joint damage and disability. Additionally, this will reduce treatment costs by avoiding the use of ineffective drugs."
The study was presented at the British Society of Rheumatology annual meeting in Welwyn Garden City.