Objective: To examine the roles of specific genetic polymorphisms as predictors of response to treatment of early rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Subjects included 457 patients with early RA (duration of < or =3 years) who participated in a randomized controlled trial comparing weekly methotrexate and 2 dosages of etanercept (10 mg twice weekly and 25 mg twice weekly). Our primary outcome measure was achievement of 50% improvement in disease activity according to the criteria of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR50 response) after 12 months of treatment. Subjects were genotyped for HLA-DRB1 alleles and polymorphisms in the following genes: TNF, LTA, TNFRSF1A, TNFRSF1B, FCGR2A, FCGR3A, and FCGR3B. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to define the impact of specific polymorphisms and haplotypes on response to treatment. Covariates for the multivariate analyses included sex, ethnicity, age, disease duration, and baseline values for rheumatoid factor and the tender and swollen joint counts.
Results: The presence of 2 HLA-DRB1 alleles encoding the shared epitope (SE) (compared with 1 or 0 copies) was associated with response to treatment with standard-dose etanercept (odds ratio [OR] 4.3, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 1.8-10.3). Among Caucasian patients, 2 extended haplotypes that included the HLA-DRB1 alleles *0404 and *0101 (both of which encode the SE) and 6 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the LTA-TNF region were associated with response to treatment. In a multivariate model that included treatment received and the aforementioned covariates, the ORs for the association of these haplotypes with achievement of an ACR50 response at 12 months were 2.5 (95% CI 0.8-7.3) and 4.9 (95% CI 1.5-16.1) for the *0404- and *0101-containing haplotypes, respectively.
Conclusion: Genetic variation in the HLA-DRB1 and the LTA-TNF regions is significantly associated with response to treatment of early RA. These findings may have clinical application through the identification of patients who are most likely to benefit from treatment with methotrexate or etanercept.