Objective: To determine the association of HLA-DRB1, rheumatoid factor (RF), and anti-citrullinated protein antibody (ACPA) status with progression of joint damage in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treated according to different treatment strategies.
Methods: The present study was conducted using data from the BeSt study (Behandelstrategieën voor Reumatoide Artritis [treatment strategies for rheumatoid arthritis]), a randomized trial comparing 4 targeted (toward achievement of a Disease Activity Score [DAS] of < or =2.4) treatment strategies: sequential monotherapy (group 1), step-up combination therapy (group 2), initial combination therapy with methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and prednisone (group 3), and initial combination therapy with methotrexate and infliximab (group 4), in 508 patients with early RA. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to predict progressive disease (increase of Sharp/van der Heijde score over 2 years beyond the smallest detectable change [4.6]) according to the presence or absence of the shared epitope (SE), DERAA, RF, and ACPA, with correction for other baseline characteristics.
Results: Progressive disease could not be predicted by presence of the SE: the odds ratio in groups 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively, was 1.4, 2.6, 1.9, and 3.0. DERAA carriership did not protect against progressive disease (odds ratio 0.4, 1.4, 0.9, and 0.9 in groups 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively). RF positivity and ACPA positivity predicted progressive disease in group 1 (odds ratio 4.7 [95% confidence interval 1.5-14.5] for RF and 12.6 [95% confidence interval 3.0-51.9] for ACPA), but not in groups 2-4 (for RF, odds ratio [95% confidence interval] 1.5 [0.5-4.9], 1.0 [0.3-3.3], and 1.4 [0.4-4.8] in group 2, group 3, and group 4, respectively; for ACPA, odds ratio [95% confidence interval] 3.4 [0.8-14.2], 1.7 [0.5-5.4], and 1.8 [0.5-6.8] in group 2, group 3, and group 4).
Conclusion: In patients with early RA treated with the goal of tight control of the DAS, no significant association between HLA-DRB1 status and radiographic progression was found. RF and ACPA were predictive of progressive disease only in patients treated with sequential monotherapy. These observations suggest that effective treatment can prevent radiographic progression, even in patients with risk factors for severe damage.