Historical Research

Our support and investments of research over the years has led to many breakthroughs. We’ve helped find discoveries that are mainstays of arthritis treatment.

The Arthritis Foundation is the foremost leader in the arthritis space – for 70 years. We are the voice of 54 million Americans living with arthritis. We have the strength and knowledge to boldly conquer arthritis through authority and action—fighting for you and fighting for a cure. We convene science, academia, and industry to tackle the greatest concerns affecting people with arthritis.

As the leading authority on arthritis, we have arrived at a place where we can usher in crucial insights and effective treatments of arthritis through research. Seventy years of experience has taught us that the long view of new therapeutics takes time. Today our portfolio maintains commitment to that long view of therapeutic progress but is diversified to also boldly identify shorter term opportunities to improve the outcomes of people living with the disease today. Through targeted research funding, the Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee of the Arthritis Foundation continue to focus on expanding our work to include investigator-initiated programs that uncover new ways of supporting people affected by arthritis. These programs will connect patients and research in a more collaborative approach for better outcomes. 

Today, the Arthritis Foundation is not just a funder of research, but an active partner, lending our own talents and channeling volunteers and critical patient insights of the Live Yes! Arthritis Network into a portfolio of programs that directly support the arthritis community. This active partnership is more than silo, it’s an active driver of the Arthritis Foundation’s other mission pillars, including advocacy, community programs, help and support, and it commitment to Juvenile Arthritis.

Arthritis Foundation-Funded Research

Our History 

We have an impressive research history. The Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation, organized in 1948, became the Arthritis Foundation in 1964. Since its inception, the foundation has supported research that strives to improve the lives of people with arthritis. As the timeline shows, the time between discovery of a new drug or biologic and its approval for use may take decades. 


First Grant  

The foundation began its professional education program by granting funds to support the Seventh International Congress on Rheumatic Diseases, sponsored by the International League Against Rheumatism, held in New York City in 1949. One of the highlights of the Congress was a presentation of the effects of cortisone and adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) on patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This was the first presentation on cortisone given at an international meeting of doctors and scientists whose main interest was the study and treatment of rheumatic diseases. 


Identification of Lyme disease 

The guidance of an astute mother, Polly Murray, brought Lyme disease to the attention of the Arthritis Foundation and scientists when she recognized an abnormal number of kids with pediatric arthritis in her community, including her son. Without this patient involvement, the discoveries that led to better understanding and treatments for this disease may have taken longer. 

In the mid-1970s, Lyme disease was recognized as a distinct disease when a cluster of cases originally thought to be juvenile rheumatoid arthritis was identified in three towns in Connecticut. Two of the towns, Lyme and Old Lyme, gave the disease its name. The ensuing work, funded through the Arthritis Foundation, led to recognition of infectious nature of the disease. 


Foundation-funded study on Methotrexate adds interest in using it for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other arthritis forms  

Researchers first developed Methotrexate in the 1940s as a treatment for several forms of cancer. In the 1950s and 60s, doctors began using an older form of this drug at lower doses to treat psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The older form of this drug was hard to manufacture, so a newer form was created. The newer form of this drug has been part of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treatment for at least three decades.  

For some of this time, the rheumatology community was hostile to using an anti-cancer treatment for RA and doctors were reluctant to submit their clinical study results due to fear of rejection from professional journals. However, in the early 1980’s researchers began to publish their results. In the 1980s, the AF was behind the earliest clinical trials that set the stage for methotrexate to become a main stay of treatment for RA. An Arthritis Foundation-funded study, “Low dose methotrexate in rheumatoid arthritis,” (K. Steinsson, et al) published in the Journal of Rheumatology in late 1982. This study, along with other similar studies, provided data that led to the drug’s approval for treating arthritis. 

In 1988, methotrexate won FDA approval for treating RA, and it soon became the treatment of choice for people with this condition and other forms of inflammatory arthritis. 


Identification of II-1 fundamental to modern pediatric treatment 

Only a handful of foundations can draw a direct connection between their work and FDA approved therapies.

Using his Arthritis Foundation research grant in the early 1980s, Dr. Bill Arend studied the role of interleukin (IL)-1 protein in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – which ushered in the biologic era that led to the development of etanercept (Enbrel), anakinra (Kineret), and secukinumab (Cosentyx). These biologics owe their inventions to milestone discoveries funded by the Arthritis Foundation. 


Enbrel (etanercept) approved TNF inhibitor  

Enbrel is a biologic that treats autoimmune diseases by acting as a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor. TNF-alpha is one of the main regulators of immune (inflammatory) responses in the body. Autoimmune diseases are caused by overactive immune responses. Enbrel inhibits the immune response caused by TNF-alpha. It is used to treat ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. 

North American Rheumatoid Arthritis Consortium (NARAC) forms 

This is a group of researchers across the U.S. who conduct research on the genetics of rheumatoid arthritis. Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Arthritis Foundation, NARAC maintains a database and serum and DNA repository that serves as a resource for the entire scientific community to allow for comprehensive analysis of genetic susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis. 


Kineret (anakinra) approved, based on II-1 discoveries 

Kineret is a biologic that is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It is a slightly modified version of interleukin (IL)-1 that acts to inhibit immune responses.  

Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA) forms 

The Childhood Arthritis & Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA) is an organization of pediatric rheumatologists committed to advancing the health and quality of life of children living with rheumatic disease. With financial support from the Arthritis Foundation, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and others, CARRA's network of pediatric rheumatology research centers provides an accessible point of entry for patients and families across the United States and Canada to participate in research studies and trials of new therapies. 


Cosentyx (secukinumab) approved by FDA for ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis 

This biologic binds to the protein interleukin (IL)-17A and inhibits the immune response. Cosentyx was awarded the 2016 Prix Galien USA Award for Best Biotechnology Product. Prix Galien awards are the pharmaceutical industry’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize, given for innovative medical research.  


Launch of four nationwide scientific initiatives

The Arthritis Foundation is currently supporting its Scientific Initiatives program to provide funding that goes to the development and rollout of four specific initiatives. 

Advancing Osteoarthritis Treatments 

Affecting more than 30 million Americans, Osteoarthritis remains a huge issue and a serious condition. We are determined to find out more about this devastating disease and aid in the development of new and novel treatments. 

Cultivating a New Generation of Rheumatologists 

The growing shortage of rheumatologists - specialists devoted to diagnosis and therapy of rheumatic diseases - creates more barriers to care and negatively impacts a patient’s quality of life. Creating incentives, like our fellowship program, will increase the number of medical students choosing rheumatology. 

Conquering Childhood Arthritis 

The Arthritis Foundation partners with the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA) to not only fund research for disease treatment options, but also to activate large-scale patient engagement to compare the effectiveness of different treatments both in the short- and long-term. 

Collaborating with Patients for Better Health 

Real, patient-centered care is vital in ensuring better health outcomes. Our digital data exchange will enable patients to record symptoms, problems and challenges in real time - with results sent directly to their doctor. Communication between visits will enrich the care plan produced by both the doctor and the patient.  


Launch of Live Yes! Arthritis Network

The Arthritis Foundation created the Live Yes! Arthritis Network to better connect patients, families, and caregivers to a strong network of support to empower people living with arthritis to manage stress, live life with less pain, and take control of their health care by becoming more active in their care.

The network built upon our existing resources/programs and launched new online community topic-driven forums and local, peer-led support groups that provide connections, education, and empowerment to adults living with arthritis and parents/guardians of children living with arthritis. 


Launch of the largest patient insights program: Live Yes! Patient Reported Outcomes (PRO) Insights Assessments and First Look Report

The goal of this program is to inform or influence gaps in research and research strategies. By connecting people with arthritis to life-changing resources and connections, the Live Yes! Arthritis Network aims to make positive impact in three domains: physical health, emotional and social health, and experience of care. 

The Live Yes! Insights assessments are patient reported data that measure these three domains of living with arthritis:  

  • Physical health questions ask patients about fatigue, physical function, pain and sleep. 
  • Emotional and social health questions ask about companionship, anxiety, depression, hope, support, and social roles/activities. 
  • Experience of care asks questions about self-advocacy and shared decision making as a partner with healthcare providers. 

The First Look Report summarizesthe results from nearly 20,000 responses collected during the first year of this program to create a clearer picture of what it is like to live with arthritis.

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