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.
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Explore This IssueNovember 2007
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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.”
Betsy McLinden also says that in meeting and talking with people who are affected with RA, she and her husband realize that many of these people want to get behind the issue of RA but just don’t know where to turn, which is why the campaign and the ambassador program are so important.
The importance of developing new treatments for this debilitating disease is not just something that rheumatologists are voicing – pharmaceutical companies have made it a priority, too.
Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMS), a pinnacle donor to the campaign, became involved early on. “While much progress has been made in the treatment of people with RA, there is still a great deal of research to be done to help healthcare professionals better manage and perhaps one day even cure the disease,” says Michael Corbo, vice president and development team lead at BMS. “Bristol-Myers Squibb is proud to be involved with this innovative research campaign that supports our mission of extending and enhancing human life.” BMS supports the “Within Our Reach” campaign through its charitable giving program.
“Significant advancements in managing and treating RA have been made, but the underlying causes of the disease remain unknown,” says Corbo. “The ‘Within Our Reach’ campaign supports research that seeks to identify the cause of RA, which will help us better treat people afflicted by the disease.”
Another “Within Our Reach” pinnacle donor is Abbott Laboratories. “The past few years have seen tremendous advances in RA treatment, and yet clearly there is even more to learn,” says Rebecca S. Hoffman, MD, divisional vice president of immunology development at Abbott. “A better scientific understanding of RA could help us treat those patients who are still in pain, despite the best treatments. It could also enable us to diagnose, or even predict, new cases of RA so we can stop the disease before it starts.”
RA Research Grant Application Deadline
The deadline to apply for a REF “Within Our Reach” research grant is approaching. Grants are available in the following RA research areas:
- Innovative basic research;
- Translational research; and
- Clinical practice.
- Applications must be postmarked by December 1. For applicant information, visit www.WithinOurReach.info.
Preceptorship Application Deadline
The ACR REF Preceptorship awards connect medical students with a mentor (preceptor) for a hands-on, real-world learning experience focused on rheumatology. Applications are due on February 1, 2008. Awards provide a cash stipend.
- ACR REF/Abbott Health Professional Graduate Student Research Preceptorship: Introduces students to rheumatology-related healthcare by supporting a graduate student’s full-time research in rheumatic disease. Only students enrolled in graduate school are eligible.
- ACR REF/Abbott Medical Student Clinical Preceptorship: Introduces medical students to rheumatology by supporting a full-time clinical experience. Only students enrolled in medical school are eligible.
- ACR REF/Abbott Medical Student Research Preceptorship: Introduces medical students to rheumatology by supporting a full-time research experience. Only students enrolled in medical school are eligible.
- ACR REF Resident Research Preceptorship: Introduces residents to rheumatology by supporting a full-time research experience. Only residents enrolled in an ACGME-accredited training program in internal medicine, pediatrics, or med/peds are eligible.
For more information, including eligibility requirements and award terms; to apply for an award; or to view a list of current award recipients, visit www.rheumatology.org/REF or e-mail [email protected].