Rheumatoid arthritis-related cardiovascular risk lowered with immunotherapy: New study

rheumatoid arthritis biologics treatment reduce cardiovascular riskRheumatoid arthritis-related cardiovascular risk can be lowered with immunotherapy. Lead researcher Prof. Aida Babaeva of the Volgograd State Medical University in Russia said, “Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interferon (IFN), which normally protect the body, attack healthy cells. Patients have painful and inflamed joints. They are also at increased cardiovascular risk, particularly if their rheumatoid arthritis is not controlled.”

Previous research carried out by Prof. Babaeva revealed that treatment with anticytokine drugs can decrease the activity of rheumatoid arthritis.


For this study, researchers tested the effects of a combination of drugs on cardiovascular events in rheumatoid arthritis. The study included 68 participants, all having rheumatoid arthritis for at least five years. Participants were randomized to either receive the combination of anti-TNFα and anti-IFNƔ plus standard disease-modifying therapy, or placebo plus standard therapy.

After the three-year follow-up period, participants on the drug combination had lower rheumatoid arthritis disease activity scores, along with decreases in IL-1, IL-6, and TNFα than the group on standard therapy alone.

Prof. Babaeva said, “Our findings suggest that the decreased rheumatoid arthritis disease activity with the combination of anticytokines translates into decreased cardiovascular risk. Rheumatoid arthritis promotes the development of cardiovascular disease in a number of ways. Therefore, decreasing disease activity may also reduce cardiovascular risk by slowing down or halting these processes.”

“This doesn’t mean that the two drugs directly impact on blood pressure. But the combination can improve endothelial function and it could be that blood pressure is more stable when disease activity is low. We found that the combination of two anticytokines containing extra low doses of antibodies against TNFα and IFNƔ can improve the efficacy of standard rheumatoid arthritis therapy and decrease cardiovascular risk,” added Prof. Babaeva.

She concluded, “We do not think that all patients with rheumatoid arthritis should be treated with this combination. In patients with highly active disease, the standard biologics are better at preventing severe complications such as progressive joint destruction and/or systemic manifestations (vasculitis, uveitis, involvement of internal organs). We recommend this new approach for preventing cardiovascular events in patients with moderate disease activity who are not receiving the standard biologics and who do not have severe complications.”

What is rheumatoid arthritis immunotherapy?

Rheumatoid arthritis immunotherapy is a type of treatment that aims to stop the autoimmune attacks your immune system launches on the joints and joint tissue. Immunotherapy helps protect the body from its own attacks by interrupting the autoimmune response.

Biologics are the most successful forms of immunotherapy and are often prescribed in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis to prevent complications and disease severity. Much research has shown that the earlier the aggressive treatment begins, the better the patient outcomes are.

Immunotherapy works by restoring the body’s own immune response, enabling it to fight the infection. Dosages of immunotherapy depend on the severity of the autoimmune attacks.


Some biologics target anti-tumor-necrosis factor (anti-TNF), while others target T-cells common in rheumatoid arthritis.

Effectiveness of biologics depends on the type of treatment and individual factors. While some drugs work fairly quickly, others take longer before the patient begins experiencing results.

Working with your rheumatologist can help you determine the best form of treatment for your rheumatoid arthritis.

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.