Rheumatologists and researchers from around the world gathered April 29-30 in Madison, WI, for the annual meeting of SPARTAN (Spondyloarthritis Research and Treatment Network), a unique conference focused exclusively on the understanding, treatment, and management of spondyloarthritis (SpA).
Meeting in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the 2022 SPARTAN conference featured presentations by internationally renowned experts in rheumatology, immunology, imaging, and more.
Highlights of the two-day event included a scientific session on pain. “Pain is often the most important issue for patients with inflammatory diseases including axSpA,” said rheumatologist Philip Mease, MD. “It turns out that only a portion of the pain relief occurring with current medications is due to suppression of inflammation. There are more nuanced and important factors in the path to the central nervous system and in the central nervous system that are mediating pain.”
Presentations in this session focused on mechanisms of pain in SpA, central pain sensitization (also called nociplastic pain) in SpA, and inflammatory back pain.
A session on immunology and genetics featured presentations on the mechanisms of JAK inhibitors – the newest class of medications gaining FDA approval to treat SpA – along with genetic risk scores as a diagnostic tool in SpA, and novel treatment targets currently being studied for SpA.
The role of imaging tools such as CT scans, PET-CT scans, and MRI in the diagnosis of SpA was also discussed.
This year’s SPARTAN Research Career Achievement Award was presented to James Rosenbaum, MD, Chief of the Division of Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases at Oregon Health & Science University, and a longtime member of SAA’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Board.
Before the SPARTAN conference began, organizers hosted a day-long trainee symposium for early career rheumatologists, aimed at reducing the delay to diagnosis for those with SpA. The symposium covered topics including clinical manifestations of SpA, disease mechanisms in SpA, and conducting musculoskeletal exams in SpA.
“Despite the recent advances in the field of axial spondyloarthritis, studies have shown that the diagnosis of axSpA is still delayed by an average of seven to eight years. Imagine the burden that this can cause to patients,” said rheumatologist Mohamad Bittar, MD, in his opening remarks. “We hope that by the end of the symposium, you will learn a lot about axSpA, so you can help us capture those cases as early as possible. You are the future, and we are counting on you.”