Distinct Trajectories of Disease Activity Over the First Year in Early Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Following a Treat-to-Target Strategy




Although treat-to-target (T2T) strategies are effective in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, important individual variations exist in the course toward remission. Growth mixture modeling provides more insight into this heterogeneity by identifying subgroups of patients with similar response patterns. This study aimed to identify distinct trajectories of disease activity in early RA patients following a T2T strategy during their first year.


Data on various clinical and patient-reported measures were collected from the Dutch Rheumatoid Arthritis Monitoring remission induction cohort. Growth mixture modeling was applied to examine the impact of T2T on subgroups characterized by different types of growth trajectories, as measured with the Disease Activity Score in 28 joints.


Three distinct trajectories of disease activity were found. The normative trajectory contained most patients (82.6%), showing a quickly decreasing disease activity that stabilized at remission after 9 months. This group performed best on clinical and patient-reported measures over time and were more likely to be men. A smaller group (14.1%) also approached remission, but demonstrated a slower response to treatment. Finally, a minority (3.3%) showed no improvement after 1 year, despite an initial quick decrease in disease activity during the first months of treatment.


Disease activity in early RA patients during the first year of a T2T strategy does not follow a linear pattern, nor is a single developmental trajectory applicable to all patients. Future studies should attempt to identify more specific risk factors for poor outcome to enable early identification of patients in need of alternative therapeutic approaches.