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Arthritis Res Ther. 2008;10(5):R125. doi: 10.1186/ar2537. Epub 2008 Oct 22.

Serum levels of biomarkers of bone and cartilage destruction and new bone formation in different cohorts of patients with axial spondyloarthritis with and without tumor necrosis factor-alpha blocker treatment.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Infectiology and Rheumatology, Charité Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Hindenburgdamm 30, 12203 Berlin, Germany.



Recent data about radiographic progression during treatment with tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) blocker agents in patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) have prompted an intensive discussion about the link between inflammation/bone destruction and new bone formation and the order of events. Therefore, we analysed parameters of cartilage degradation, neoangiogenesis, and new bone formation in different cohorts of patients with axial spondyloarthritis with and without treatment with TNF-alpha blocker agents.


TNF-alpha blocker-naïve AS patients were investigated for serum levels of metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3) (n = 71), vasoendothelial growth factor (VEGF) (n = 50), and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase (BALP) (n = 71) at baseline and after 1 and 2 years. This was compared with 34 adalimumab-treated patients with axial spondyloarthritis (22 AS and 12 non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis patients) before and after 36 to 52 weeks of treatment.


There were no significant changes in serum levels of MMP-3 (P > 0.05), VEGF (P > 0.05), and BALP (P > 0.05) in a large cohort of TNF-alpha blocker-naïve AS patients followed for 2 years. In contrast, adalimumab-treated spondyloarthritis (AS and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis) patients had a significant decrease of VEGF (P < 0.001) and MMP-3 (P = 0.022) after 36 to 52 weeks of therapy. Most interestingly, the level of BALP increased significantly after 36 to 52 weeks of therapy (P < 0.001). A decrease in MMP-3 serum levels correlated significantly to an increase of BALP (r = -0.398, P = 0.02). In the case of VEGF, there was a negative correlation without significance (r = -0.214, P > 0.05).


Rising levels of BALP and the negative correlation between MMP-3 and BALP in spondyloarthritis patients with TNF-alpha blocker treatment indicate that new bone formation in AS occurs if inflammation is successfully treated and might be part of a healing process.

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