New blood tests that may boost the accuracy of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) diagnoses are generating equal parts buzz and guarded optimism, one expert says.
Quest Diagnostics of Madison, N.J. last month made the novel 14-3-3eta protein biomarker test available nationwide through an agreement with Augurex Life Sciences of Vancouver. Elevated blood levels of the 14-3-3eta biomarker outperformed traditional cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP) and rheumatoid factor (RF) panels in a recent study, the companies announced. And, when combined with CCP and RF, the new test increases sensitivity for early RA detection to between 72% and 100%, they added.
“Any accurate and commonly available test that might serve as a tool in rheumatologists’ hands to diagnose early RA would have practical implications,” says Jasvinder Singh, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Medicine and the Birmingham VA Medical Center. “We’ve never had a diagnostic test that either rules in the disease completely or completely rules it out. … Anything that improves the accuracy of the current tests, in a reliable and reproducible manner, would be a good addition.”
The announcement comes at a time when early RA diagnosis is a major focus of the research community. Dr. Singh says most rheumatologists agree that early identification and treatment is optimal, and that “aspect of RA is going to get even more attention going forward.”
Dr. Singh, however, is reserving judgment until the manufacturer provides validation for the new tests.
“Let’s wait and see what the details are,” he says. “This is not something I’m going to use tomorrow. … It is exciting news, but we need some more details, we need data.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.