Promising new treatment for hand osteoarthritis in early stages 

Promising new treatment for hand osteoarthritis in early stages 
© shutterstock/ - Yuri

Researchers from the University of Oxford have found that the drug talarozole, which increases retinoic acid, could offer new hope for hand osteoarthritis patients. 

Hand osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that causes stiffness and pain. Several factors play a role in causing hand osteoarthritis, including age, sex, race, weight, genes, injuries and existing joint issues. Current treatments include non-drug interventions such as hand exercises, drug therapies like corticosteroids and surgical treatments. Talarozole could potentially offer a new line of treatment for hand osteoarthritis. 

Tonia Vincent, Professor of Musculoskeletal Biology & Honorary Rheumatologist at Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) said: “Hand osteoarthritis is a common and debilitating medical condition that affects mainly women, especially around the time of the menopause. We currently have no effective treatments that modify their disease.” 

Investigating a common gene variant linked to hand osteoarthritis

The researchers began their investigation by looking at a common gene variant that has been linked to severe hand osteoarthritis. They collected patient samples at the time of routine hand surgery, as well as a number of experimental models, they were able to identify a key molecule that was especially low in ‘at risk’ individuals, called retinoic acid.  

New treatments are crucially needed as over 40% of individuals develop osteoarthritis during their lifetime. Specifically for hand osteoarthritis, there are no disease-modifying treatments that effectively relieve symptoms or stop deformity and stiffness in the joints.  

Professor Vincent added: “This project was only possible because of the multi-disciplinary approach that we took; working with our hand surgical colleagues, geneticists, data scientists and biologists.” 

Talarozole: safe for use in humans

Talarozole has been shown to be an acceptable safety profile in human subjects. A small proof-of-concept clinical study is underway to see whether this drug might represent a new disease-modifying treatment in patients.  

Dr Neha Issar-Brown, Director of Research and Health Intelligence at the charity Versus Arthritis, which funded the research, said: “Around 8.5 million people in the UK live with OA. Despite often being dismissed as just a few aches and pains, OA can have a profound and far-reaching impact on life, affecting people’s ability to work, care for a family, or live independently. 

“There is an urgent need for disease-modifying treatments designed to prevent or reverse the painful symptoms of OA. This study reveals a new understanding of the causes of hand osteoarthritis, which could lead to identifying new biological targets for intervention in hand OA. 

“This research is still at an early stage, but with these encouraging findings we are a big step closer in being able to develop a new class of disease-modifying drugs to treat osteoarthritis, prevent chronic pain, and enable people to live well with condition,” Dr Issar-Brown concluded. 

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