Molecular profiling of rheumatoid arthritis patients reveals an association between innate and adaptive cell populations and response to anti-tumor necrosis factor

BACKGROUND The goal of this study is to use comprehensive molecular profiling to characterize clinical response to anti-TNF therapy in a real-world setting and identify reproducible markers differentiating good responders and non-responders in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
METHODS Whole-blood mRNA, plasma proteins, and glycopeptides were measured in two cohorts of biologic-naïve RA patients (n = 40 and n = 36) from the Corrona CERTAIN (Comparative Effectiveness Registry to study Therapies for Arthritis and Inflammatory coNditions) registry at baseline and after 3 months of anti-TNF treatment. Response to treatment was categorized by EULAR criteria. A cell type-specific data analysis was conducted to evaluate the involvement of the most common immune cell sub-populations. Findings concordant between the two cohorts were further assessed for reproducibility using selected NCBI-GEO datasets and clinical laboratory measurements available in the CERTAIN database.
RESULTS A treatment-related signature suggesting a reduction in neutrophils, independent of the status of response, was indicated by a high level of correlation (ρ = 0.62; p < 0.01) between the two cohorts. A baseline, response signature of increased innate cell types in responders compared to increased adaptive cell types in non-responders was identified in both cohorts. This result was further assessed by applying the cell type-specific analysis to five other publicly available RA datasets. Evaluation of the neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio at baseline in the remaining patients (n = 1962) from the CERTAIN database confirmed the observation (odds ratio of good/moderate response = 1.20 [95% CI = 1.03-1.41, p = 0.02]).
CONCLUSION Differences in innate/adaptive immune cell type composition at baseline may be a major contributor to response to anti-TNF treatment within the first 3 months of therapy.

as reported in: Arthritis Res Ther. 2019 Oct 23; 21(1): 216