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Identification of patient subgroups could pave way for personalised Sjögren’s syndrome treatments

There is currently no treatment for primary Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease. New findings from IMI’s PRECISESADS project could help to change that.

Tired woman resting her head in her hand. Image by Liza Summer via Pexels.
Symptoms of pSS include a dry eyes and mouth, fatigue and skin rashes. Image by Liza Summer via Pexels

Primary Sjögren’s syndrome (pSS) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks cells in the body that secrete fluids, such as tear ducts and salivary glands. As the disease progresses, it can affect a range of organs and tissues, including the joints, lungs, kidneys, and liver as well as the nervous system, muscles and bones. The majority of patients are women and the symptoms vary from one patient to another.

In recent years, scientists have run clinical trials of a number of treatments for pSS, but none of these proved successful, and to date there is no approved treatment for pSS. One reason for the clinical trial failures could be the diversity of pSS patients; some treatments may work for certain sub-groups of patients – the challenge is to identify these subgroups and match them up with appropriate treatments.

Now, a new paper in Nature Communications suggests that there could be four sub-groups of pSS patients. The findings were supported by IMI through the PRECISESADS project, which focused on identifying new classifications for a range of autoimmune disorders, including pSS.

In the study, scientists drew up detailed molecular profiles from blood samples from over 300 pSS patients and compared these with profiles from 330 healthy volunteers. The analysis revealed four distinct clusters of pSS patients and identified the biological markers (biomarkers) that could be used to identify a patient’s subgroup. Furthermore, the team showed how machine learning could be used to classify patients.

The team also offer suggestions as to which kinds of treatments could work best for the different subgroups, effectively paving the way for more personalised treatments for pSS.

‘These findings have major implications for the treatment of pSS patients, providing a rationale for both optimal drug positioning and combinations of drugs with complementary mechanisms of action,’ the researchers write.

They conclude: ‘Altogether, our results can improve pSS treatment strategies allowing a patient centric approach. This paradigm already implemented in the oncology field will increase the probability of trial successes and boost the development of new efficient drugs against pSS.’

Read more

Read news stories on the findings in French and English on the Université De Bretagne Occidentale website

Read the paper in Nature Communications


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