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Cardiovascular diseases
Neurodegenerative diseases
Infection and immunity
Translational Research IT (TraIT)
Development of Tools (and Prediction Rules) to Time and Select Therapy in Treatment of Pre-clinical, Early and Established Rheumatoid Arthritis: Creating Enhanced Remedy (TRACER)
Principal Investigator Prof. Dr. J.W.J. Bijlsma (University Medical Center Utrecht)
CTMM Program manager: Henny Bruinewoud
The onset and course of rheumatoid arthritis, the rate at which consequent joint damage occurs and the response to therapy are different for each patient, making treatment of RA difficult. In addition, the timing of effective treatment is essential for the final outcome and for prevention/retardation of joint damage. In addition, RA is a heterogeneous disease, with large variation in the pathogenetic processes taking place within an individual patient and between patients. Patient-tailored treatment is therefore needed. However, optimal tools for highly personalized diagnosis, prognosis and treatment selection are not yet available.
The TRACER project aims to produce appropriate tools for use at three distinct disease stages – for diagnosis, prognosis and therapy selection during very early RA (VERA), early RA (ERA) and established RA (ESRA). Specifically, the project team will develop novel biochemical (genomic and proteomic) analysis tools and imaging techniques, and improve established ones, to predict disease progression and therapeutic response. To do so, it will leverage rheumatology’s unique infrastructure of longstanding and ongoing data gathering from large patient cohorts with corresponding biobanking.
The two central workpackages focus on developing and optimizing imaging techniques (PET and MRI) and on developing suitable genomic, proteomic and metabolomic tests.
Professor Bijlsma - Hans Bijlsma.jpg
Prof. Dr. J.W.J. Bijlsma 
“Leveraging the expertise of departments of rheumatology, radiology and biochemistry in the Netherlands’ leading university hospitals together with the technical know-how of twelve Dutch SMEs and five large Dutch enterprises, the tools developed in the TRACER project should enable us to really start personalizing the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and perhaps even allow us to prevent its development.”
Prof. Dr. J.W.J. Bijlsma has led the Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at the University Medical Center Utrecht since 1989, focusing the department’s research on rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and systemic autoimmune diseases. He also directs research in the Dutch Arthritis Association cohort of 1000 persons with early osteoarthritis of hip and knee. Prof. Bijlsma has fulfilled many functions in the Dutch Society of Rheumatology, the Union European Medicines Specialistes and the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), where he currently heads the committee on education. He is associate editor of Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, and sits on the editorial board of many other medical journals. During his career, he has published over 400 original articles and contributed to many books in the field of rheumatology.

Industrial partners
  • AbbVie BV 
  • Arthrogen BV 
  • Biqualys BV
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb BV
  • Cavadis BV
  • BV Cyclotron
  • Euro-Diagnostica AB
  • FlexGen BV
  • Imaging Rheumatology BV  
  • ModiQuest BV
  • Novirun BV
  • PamGene International BV
  • Pfizer
  • Preselect Diagnostics BV i.o.
  • Roche Nederland BV  
  • Ssens BV
  • UCB Pharma BV


Academic partners
  • Academisch Medisch Centrum (AMC)
  • Erasmus Medisch Centrum (EMC)
  • Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam (EUR)
  • Leids Universitair Centrum (LUMC)
  • Reade 
  • Universitair Medisch Centrum St Radboud (UMC St Radboud)
  • Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht (UMCU)
  • VU Medisch Centrum (VUmc)
Supporting foundations:

Status of the Tracer project end of 2009: PDF (download)
Tracer project presentation at the CTMM Annual Meeting 2010: PDF (download)
In response to the first call for project proposals in 2007, the Center for Translational Molecular Medicine (CTMM) announced on April 1, 2008, that nine first-call projects would receive research funding amounting to a total of 150 million Euro. On March 10, 2009, it announced that eight new project proposals, submitted in the fall of 2008 in response to the second call for proposals, will receive funding amounting to a total of almost another 100 million Euro.
All Dutch university medical centers, plus several universities, a broad spectrum of small and medium-sized enterprises, major industry leaders including Philips and DSM, and the Dutch Government are involved.
The funding is provided by the Dutch government, industry and academia. The research is focused firmly on the ‘translational’ aspects of molecular medicine so that results can be applied as quickly as possible to actual patient care.
Tracer is one of the projects from the second call.
Update: 26-09-2012




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