Open Access Open Badges Research article

Targeting tumour necrosis factor alleviates signs and symptoms of inflammatory osteoarthritis of the knee

Walter P Maksymowych1*, Anthony S Russell1, Peter Chiu1, Alex Yan1, Niall Jones1, Tracey Clare2 and Robert GW Lambert2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, 562 Heritage Medical Research Building, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2S2

2 Department of Radiology, University of Alberta, 2A2.41 Walter Mackenzie Building, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2B7

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R206  doi:10.1186/ar4044

Published: 4 October 2012



Inflammation associated with synovial expression of TNFα is a recognised feature of osteoarthritis (OA), although no studies have yet reported beneficial effects of anti-TNFα therapy on clinical manifestations of inflammation in OA.


We conducted an open-label evaluation of adalimumab over 12 weeks in 20 patients with OA of the knee and evidence of effusion clinically. Inclusion criteria included daily knee pain for the month preceding study enrolment and a summed pain score of 125 to 400 mm visual analogue scale on the Western Ontario and McMaster University Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) pain subscale. The primary outcome was the Osteoarthritis Research Society International/Outcome Measures in Rheumatology Clinical Trials (OARSI/OMERACT) response criterion at week 12. Secondary outcomes included the WOMAC pain score 20% and 50% improvement, WOMAC stiffness and function scores, patient and physician global visual analogue scale, as well as target joint swelling.


Treatment was well tolerated and completed by 17 patients with withdrawals unrelated to lack of efficacy or adverse events. By intention to treat, an OARSI/OMERACT response was recorded in 14 (70%) patients. WOMAC pain 20% and 50% responses were recorded in 14 (70%) patients and eight (40%) patients, respectively. Significant improvement was observed in mean WOMAC pain, stiffness, function, physician and patient global, as well as target joint swelling at 12 weeks (P < 0.0001 for all). After treatment discontinuation, 16 patients were available for assessment at 22 weeks and OARSI/OMERACT response compared with baseline was still evident in 10 (50%) patients.


Targeting TNFα may be of therapeutic benefit in OA and requires further evaluation in controlled trials.

Trial registration NCT00686439.