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Dr Olsen and Karp have summarised data from several important papers on the use of novel diagnostic tests for earlier diagnosis of SLE. I agree in the importance of this problem, for the early exclusion of SLE in people with benign ANA positivity, and early intervention in people destined to develop SLE or related disease.
I also agree with the key challenges in such research. Previous studies have been limited by a retrospective design. Inclusion of patients with variable symptom duration or patient populations that were selected for certain clinical characteristics may bias findings by conditioning on the outcome. Also, putative biomarker results need to be appraised alongside routine diagnostic tests, not in isolation.
These challenges were met in our previous study into these questions. We invited all ANA-positive referrals to our centre with an onset of the symptoms that triggered referral within the past 12 months to participate, ensuring an unbiased sample appropriate to the clinical question. We collected detailed data on clinical presentation, routine immunology assessments, patient and physician reported severity, and family history, and integrated these data into our biomarker evaluation. Our patients were recruited and followed up prospectively in a standardised schedule of visits with strict assessment of criteria and a "flare hotline" in case new symptoms developed.
By doing so, we were able to reliably demonstrate the value...
By doing so, we were able to reliably demonstrate the value of interferon gene expression scores as independent predictors of progression suitable for exclusion of future SLE or early intervention at first clinic assessment. These biomarkers had previously been validated against disease activity in established SLE and shown to differentiate SLE and RA.
These results should therefore be considered alongside those cited in the review.
 Md Yusof et al. Ann Rheum Dis. 2018 Oct;77(10):1432-1439.