Meet the Researchers

Putting the ACL Feasibility Trial in Perspective

The current reality for the 27 million Americans living with arthritis is that no medications or treatments exist to slow or stop the disease. The options for patients with OA are to take pain medications, which have potentially serious side effects, to live a life filled with pain or to have the affected joint replaced.

Dr. John Hardin, director OA research for the Arthritis Foundation, has a different vision for people with OA.  His vision involves a new era of drug discovery for the disease--drugs that could potentially prevent the onset of osteoarthritis.

“Imagine a young woman who is injured on the soccer field who is able to receive an injection that prevents her from ever getting OA,” says Dr. Hardin. “Or, think about a 40-year-old man who has injured his joints at some point in his life and is at high risk for OA. His doctor prescribes a medication that wards off the onset of OA.”

Potentially effective compounds for treating OA do exist, but developing them into clinically useful drugs has been difficult because to date there is no practical clinical trial design for a slowly developing  disease, and there is no method to test compounds in patients whose joints are not damaged beyond recovery.

The ACL Feasibility Trial provides the critical tool to ignite the interest of the pharmaceutical industry in developing drugs for OA.  “If this trial is successful, they will have a tool to measure the effect of their drug in a way that will enable clinical trials to be done in a cost-effective way,” explains Dr. Hardin, “ The Arthritis Foundation is the champion of  this approach, and we have funded the first major program to establish the feasibility of using imaging technology toward addressing the problem of drug development for OA.” 

A Building Block for OA Treatment

Sharmila Majumdar, Ph.D., vice chair for research, professor, and director of the musculoskeletal and quantitative imaging research group at UCSF, is the co-principal investigator for the Feasibility Trial to Study ACL Injury as a Model of Early Osteoarthritis. She provides some insight on why she got involved with this trial and why it is important to the future of OA treatment.

Q: Why did you want to participate in the ACL Feasibility Trial?

A: This trial represents an opportunity to try out quantitative imaging at multiple sites and establish their role in imaging post-traumatic OA. It represents the building block for future trials where therapeutic approaches to OA prevention, therapy and deceleration of the degenerative process could be assessed objectively.

Q: What do you hope to learn over the course of this trial?

A: We want to identify the factors that are important to consider when doing quantitative imaging across multiple sites. It will provide guidance on how to ensure comparable data from multiple sites from the perspective of not just imaging, but also from the perspective of orthopedic surgery grading, and collection of serum and urine biomarkers.

Q: What is the potential outcome for people with osteoarthritis?

A: This feasibility trial will pave the way for future trials where objective measures may be used to characterize joint degeneration in its early stages where morphological, or functional changes have not already occurred. It will help provide a means of monitoring response to therapy in the early stages of OA.


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