Parker, an athletic eight-year-old, was troubled by a persistent pain in his legs. He thought it was just typical growing pains, but a series of tests revealed something more serious: juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). At first, Parker thought nothing of his diagnosis. That is, until the pain started getting worse. “I really underestimated this disease,” Parker confesses. “I’m in pain every single day of my life.” But despite all the obstacles against him, Parker chooses to fight for his life and the lives of other children affected by all forms of juvenile arthritis (JA). It’s been eight years since his battle began, and Parker is as resilient as ever. He recently enrolled in a clinical trial for a promising new medicine and so far, it has helped with his pain reduction. Parker is also a patient advocate and has raised more than $100,000 for families impacted by JA. And Parker has no intention of slowing down. “I live by a motto that you’re never fully dressed without a smile, because positivity is what keeps us going. And with hope, anything is possible.”
Researchers Making An Impact
Though it’s a specialized form of arthritis that affects children like Parker, there are also specialized researchers in biopharmaceutical labs across America whose sole goal is to stop JA’s attack on the developing systems of the young. One of them is Dawn, a general medicine researcher who turned her focus to rheumatoid arthritis after working on the development of a therapeutic for autoimmune diseases. She admits the broad and complex landscape of JA is often frustrating and filled with setbacks. “A lot of these diseases, like JA, encompass more than one disease. That makes pinpointing treatment difficult. For example, you may have JA, but that really encompasses seven different types of diseases of the joint, an illness on a spectrum that creates [symptoms] that are both very mild and very severe.” But despite the long hours and obstacles, Dawn pushes forward. Because of her hard work and dedication, Dawn – along with hundreds of other researchers like herself – are finding success with a number of new treatments available and in development, ranging from pain management to more powerful biweekly infusions.
I would love to find something that, once a child had been diagnosed with JA, they could take a treatment...and have the disease be cured.
General Medicine Researcher
The Latest Innovations
Juvenile arthritis (JA) is a painful autoimmune illness affecting the joints and internal organs. It is the most common chronic rheumatic disease with the highest risk of disability and affects children under age of 16. While there is no cure for this particular disease, there are existing treatments aimed at relieving pain and inflammation to improve quality of life. There are also more than 76 new medicines in the development pipeline for autoimmune types of arthritis.
The future of medicine for JA has never looked more promising. Scientists are focusing their attention on the development of biological treatments—medicines genetically engineered from human genes designed to reduce inflammation and halt joint damage. One in development works by blocking inflammatory proteins. Another one targets T-cells—a type of white blood cell. This treatment works by attaching to the surface of inflammatory cells, then blocking any communication between the cells. Yet another is a treatment that uses a mixture of antibodies that wipe out B-lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that involves inflammation. Although these medicines in development have many years of testing before being released to the public, initial research has already shown promising results.
Together, We'll Win the Fight Against JA
The battle against JA is far from over, but people like Parker have reasons to be hopeful. Every day, researchers like Dawn push the science of what’s possible to unearth new breakthroughs. The strength and resilience of patients motivate researchers to fight even harder to get patients back to their everyday lives faster. With more advances on the horizon, we have more promising treatments than ever before, one of which just might defeat JA entirely.