Ask any rheumatologist about the state of RA as a disease and you’re likely to get the same answer: There’s reason for great optimism and there’s a lot of work to be done.
Major funding is critical for accelerating research on finding a cure and improving treatments; now is the time to help raise those funds.
“Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis,” a multi-year, $30-million campaign launched by the ACR REF, offers a variety of opportunities to get involved. ACR members in particular are encouraged to get involved through the Leadership Council Program, a core group of volunteer ambassadors and diplomats nationwide. These volunteers form a network of enthusiasm and support while raising funds by connecting a distinct group of individuals with the “Within Our Reach” campaign to realize the vision of curing RA. Current industry friends and new partners (including patients and their families) have already begun to contribute funds, share information, and build awareness.
Sandra Williams was diagnosed with RA at age 38. “I thought, that’s not right, I’m still young,” Williams recalls. Her rheumatologist explained that RA is not just an older person’s disease, as is widely believed. Learning that even children suffer from this debilitating disease profoundly affected Williams. Although for years she managed her pain with strong painkillers, nothing was working to control Williams’ disease. In 1998, she began treatment with a new therapy; the results were immediate and dramatic. “It reversed the progression of the disease and I was able to live a normal life again,” she says.
Williams and her husband, Alan, were introduced to “Within Our Reach” by her rheumatologist, a Leadership Council ambassador, and they decided to contribute. “We were happy to donate because it is important to continue innovative research to advance treatments,” says Williams. “Hopefully people who are not as lucky with current treatments may someday live a normal life, too.”
Many patients do not respond to current therapies, so some research focuses on finding genetic markers to identify and predict both response to and side effects of therapies. There is a tremendous need for discovery and mechanistic understanding of the genetic basis of RA if a cure is to be found.
Betsy and John McLinden are members of the Leadership Council, serving as ambassadors, and are major donors to the “Within Our Reach” campaign.
“Our daughter, Sara, was diagnosed with RA at 15. As her parents, we wanted to do more than just support Sara – we wanted to raise funds and awareness,” says Betsy McLinden. “We attend the ambassador meetings to speak to the rheumatologists involved about the patient perspective, and we met with other patients and their families to talk about this exciting and innovative campaign. If what comes out of this campaign doesn’t help Sara, maybe it will help someone like Sara in the future.”