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SPARTAN News—Summer 2022

Volume 8 Issue 1

Dear Lisa,

The 20th annual meeting of SPARTAN in Madison in April was also the first in-person meeting after a COVID-19 induced 3-year hiatus and our first hybrid meeting ever. Based on results of the post meeting survey and comments from SPARTAN members, the meeting was a great success that demonstrated the vitality of our organization. Kudos to SPARTAN board members Marina Magrey and Runsheng Wang as well our executive director Lisa Spiegel for their hard work organizing an excellent meeting.

The keynote address by Ellen Gravallese and the year-in-review session, a feature introduced during the pandemic, were well received. A definite highlight of the meeting was the debate between Walter Maksymowych and Michael Ward whether a single diagnosis of axSpA should replace the separate entities of AS and non-radiographic axSpA. I look forward to future debates about controversial topics in the SpA field.

This year’s recipient of the SPARTAN Research Career Achievement Award was Jim Rosenbaum, longtime member and a former director of SPARTAN. Dr. Rosenbaum has made major scientific contributions to understanding the immunology of spondyloarthritis and uveitis. He is also an educator and scientific storyteller par excellence. A role model in many respects. Congratulations on this award!

The meeting was again preceded by a one-day trainee symposium. Even though there was competition from an ACR event taking place at the same time we had a significant audience of both live and virtual participants. The trainee symposium has become a staple of the SPARTAN annual meeting providing high-quality and up-to-date education on disease mechanisms, assessment and treatment of SpA. Hopefully, we will be able to reach even more rheumatology fellows (and other professionals involved in SpA care and research) in the future. A big thank you to Tiffany Lin, Mohamad Bittar and the other members of the education committee lead by Maureen Dubreuil for their excellent work.

Every two years there is a change in leadership of the organization. I would like to thank Judy Smith for successfully steering the SPARTAN ship through the high seas of the COVID-19 pandemic and advancing critical SPARTAN projects during that time. Many thanks also to Liron Caplan who rotated off the board after 9 years of service for his leadership and many contributions to the organization.

The next couple of years will be busy times for SPARTAN. As highlighted during the annual meeting and in this newsletter, the CLASSIC study is coming to a successful close, and the first publication is expected for 2023. We are planning a follow-up study, BASIS, that will use a similar design but focus on the collection of specimens for biomarker discovery. Other ongoing projects include the referral recommendations project led by Maureen Dubreuil, Abhijeet Danve and Atul Deodhar as well as well as the EIDA (Early Identification and Diagnosis of Axial Spondyloarthritis) education project led by Dax Rumsey.

With so many interesting and important projects ongoing, it will be crucial to engage all members, seasoned and junior, in the work of our organization. I am glad that many have responded to the call for committee service. The enthusiasm of the SPARTAN members attending the meeting in Madison was palpable. I already look forward to our next annual meeting in Cleveland in May 2023.

Kind regards,

Joerg Ermann, SPARTAN Chair

Jim Rosenbaum Honored

Past chairs Judy Smith and Atul Deodhar presented the SPARTAN Research Career Achievement Award to Jim Rosenbaum for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the field of spondyloarthritis research.


We are pleased to inform the SPARTAN membership and our partners in industry that we have completed recruitment of 502 patients to the CLASSIC study. We are very grateful to SPARTAN investigators, their study teams, and the local and central radiologists, for their perseverance, collaboration, and hard work through very challenging times. We are also very grateful to our industry partners AbbVie, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Novartis, Pfizer, and UCB for recognizing the importance of this study and supporting it. The CLASSIC study is testament to what can be accomplished in the SPARTAN research community and it should inspire us to even greater accomplishments for the benefit of our patients with SpA.

Referral Recommendations

During the SPARTAN annual meeting, Drs. Abhijeet Danve, Maureen Dubreuil, Atul Deodhar shared the progress of SPARTAN recommendation for referral to rheumatologists of patients with chronic back pain who may have axSpA. They presented the literature review results and conducted a Delphi exercise in the SPARTAN members. A discrete choice experiment will follow in the coming months. 

SPARTAN has launched the EIDA program to raise awareness and educate non-rheumatologists about clinical features that may suggest the presence of axial Spondyloarthritis. We are presenting at virtual Grand Rounds, Annual Meetings, and regional and state meetings of PCPs, Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, Physiatrist, PAs, and other groups of HCPs who may see axSpA patients to help them diagnose and refer. 

The learning objectives are:

  1. Develop an awareness of axSpA as a treatable cause of back pain.
  2. Recognize an inflammatory back pain pattern as a typical presentation of axSpA.
  3. Identify other common clinical features of axSpA that occur outside the spine.
  4. Understand appropriate testing for a patient with chronic back pain suspected of having axSpA and apply criteria for referral to rheumatology.
  5. Gain knowledge of basic principles of diagnosis and treatment of axSpA as applied by rheumatologists.

CAPES (Clinician and Patient Education Series) is a collaboration of GRAPPA (Group for Research and Assessment of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis), NPF (National Psoriasis Foundation), SAA (Spondylitis Association of America), and SPARTAN. The goals are to provide up-to-date knowledge, to advance HCP’s competence and performance in managing adult and pediatric patients with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA), and to create learning opportunities for patients and their families.

Please join our first in a series of three live CAPES webinars when we will discuss the spectrum and classification of JSpA and JPsA, imaging pitfalls, and the treatments and outcomes for disease management.  Register here to join the webinar on Thursday, July 28 or view the recorded session after.

axSpA Treatment Recommendations Update

At the SPARTAN Board meeting coinciding with the organization's annual meeting, the Board voted to initiate a revision of the axial spondyloarthritis clinical practice guidelines. These guidelines, last revised in 2018 and published in 2019, have been productive collaborations with partner organizations Spondylitis Association of America, and the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). They have been some of the most highly cited spondyloarthritis-related medical publications and more importantly, serve to guide the care of individuals with spondyloarthritis. The group that will execute the revision is currently being formulated under the auspices of the ACR and the revision is expected to take 18-24 months to complete.

An Evening at the Museum

At the April 29 evening reception at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, we were treated to an extra special presentation by James Louie on artists with Rheumatic diseases. Taking his cue from the Avant Garde and ultra-modern local collection, Dr. Louie focused his presentation on Paul Klee, a Swiss-German artist active in the early 20th century. Dr. Louie deftly wove elements of historical context, bibliography, rheumatology (Klee had scleroderma), and humor to engage and educate the SPARTAN audience. Klee’s work provided perspective for an expressionist painting from our own Asim Khan. This session brought us together and transported us, in a truly memorable experience.

SPARTAN Board of Directors



Joerg Ermann, MD


Kristine Kuhn, MD, PhD


Matthew Stoll, MD, PhD


Walter Maksymowych, MD

Immediate Past Chair

Judith Smith, MD, PhD


Maureen Dubreuil, MD

Nigil Haroon, MD, PhD

Marina Magrey, MD

Siba Raychaudhuri, MD

John Reveille, MD

Runsheng Wang, MD

SPARTAN Grant Awardees

Fellowship Grants

for Pilot Projects

With the aim of encouraging fellows to take up research projects under mentors with expertise in SpA, SPARTAN will support up to 2 pilot projects. 

This year, grants have been awarded to:  

Greg McDermott at Brigham and Women's Hospital for "Determinants of Diagnostic Delay in Axial Spondyloarthritis" with Joerg Ermann.

Akhiro Nakamura at University of Toronto for "Clinical validation of neutrophil DTL (a negative regulator of IL-23) expression in SpA" with Nigil Haroon

Seed Grants

for Junior Faculty

In line with SPARTAN’s vision to accelerate research in the field of Spondyloarthritis and to improve the care of patients with axSpA, SPARTAN supports early career investigators in the early stages of a research project to generate preliminary data that will support grant applications to funding agencies such as NIH.

This year's Seed Grant was awarded to:

Tejpal Gil at Oregon Health & Science University for "Characterizing gut microbial dysbiosis in HLA-B27 negative axial spondyloarthritis"

Save the Dates

13th International Congress on Spondyloarthritides, in Gent on September 7 – 9, 2022

ACR Convergence in Philadelphia on November 10 - 14, 2022 

SPARTAN GRAPPA ASAS Symposium on axSpA and PsA, in Philadelphia on November 15, 2022 

ASAS Annual Meeting January 13 - 14th, 2023

SPARTAN Case Library

SPARTAN Case Library

Enhance your education and understanding of Spondyloarthritis pediatric and adult cases from symptoms to diagnosis to treatment, authored by experts in the field.

View Case Library

Thank you for the Support of our Industry Partners

SPARTAN Sponsors: Abbvie, Janssen, Lilly, UCB, Novartis, Pfizer

SPARTAN is a network of health care professionals in North America who are dedicated to research, awareness and treatment of spondyloarthritis. SPARTAN is funded through educational grants from companies with an interest in this area of medicine.