Refractory coeliac disease, a deadly form of the autoimmune condition, has received its first dedicated support from NHS England with the setting up of a Rare Disease Collaborative Network (RDCN) to accelerate research and treatment into this life-threatening condition.
Coeliac disease is relatively common, with one in 100 people in the UK experiencing the condition, and can be successfully treated with a gluten-free diet for life. Refractory coeliac disease affects 2–5% of these patients. They do not get better on a gluten-free diet and are more likely to develop a specific types of cancer, including intestinal lymphoma (pictured) and small bowel cancer, with fatal consequences.
Professor David Sanders from Sheffield will lead the Network, working alongside Dr Jeremy Woodward at the collaborating centre in Cambridge. The RDCN will be looking to drive improvements in patient outcomes through greater understanding of refractory coeliac disease.
Professor Sanders said “The outlook for patients with refractory coeliac disease has been very poor, with a 50% life expectancy beyond five years. The support from NHS England is wonderful as it will allow us an opportunity to work collectively on improving this awful situation for our patients.”
RDCNs have been set up by the government recently as part of its Strategy for Rare Diseases, with a vision to lead to improved outcomes for patients with very rare diseases which have a prevalence of less than one in 10,000 of the population.
Earlier this year Coeliac UK, the largest independent charity for people who need to live gluten-free, launched a research fund and accompanying fundraising appeal, aiming to raise £5 million to change the future for people with coeliac disease and gluten-related autoimmune conditions.