Research Embedded Culture

Over the past two decades, researchers at the West Michigan Rheumatology have been at the forefront of innovative, cutting-edge clinical research in rheumatology. Our physicians and team have conducted a large number of investigations for new agents in rheumatic diseases.

We initiate our own studies and we work with top tier academic colleagues in multicenter projects. We have broad experience from immunogenetic and proteomic descriptive studies, case control and cohort observation studies, as well as risk message framing experiments and phase 1-3 controlled clinical trials.

We have studied and published results in all of the conditions listed below. From decades of research experience we have developed deep knowledge and experience that enriches your care.

Scleroderma and Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Our research in scleroderma related diseases begin in 1989 with the recognition and description of the Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome and its relationship to epidemic Eosinophilic Fasciitis.

West Michigan Rheumatology was one of the original investigational sites for theScleroderma Clinical Trials Consortium beginning in 1994 with the landmark “High dose, Low dose d-Penicillamine Trial”.

We have continued this thread of investigation by evaluating the validity of theRodnan Scleroderma Skin Score (a primary outcome in generalized scleroderma studies) and the Raynaud’s  Condition Score (the primary outcome for all raynauds clinical  trials).  We have conducted a number of investigations of potential treatments including “d-Penicillamine”,  “Relaxin” for generalized, diffuse scleroderma,  “dasatimib” for pulmonary fibrosis in diffuse scleroderma, andscleroderma treatment strategies.  In 2015 – 2017 we were the second largest center in Cytori STAR StudyThis evaluated the effectiveness of injection of autologously harvested fat stem cells into the fingers of patients with scleroderma related hand contractures.  In 2016-8 we participated in the FocuSSCed StudyThis evaluated subcutaneous Actemra, an FDA approved treatment for RA, in early diffuse scleroderma.

We have also participated in the design and conduct of several studies of potential therapies for raynauds phenomenon:   “oral iloprost“Vascana”, and “PF-00489791”. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis

West Michigan Rheumatology has made a two decade committment to advancing the care of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.  We and citizens of West Michigan have contributed to the advancement of our knowledge and practice of caring for RA.   Together we have participated in a long journey of observational studies of RA as well as investigations evaluating numerous therapeutic targets: Enbrel, Kineret, Remicade, Orencia, Actemra as well as inhibitors of IL-1, CD-4, IL-15, IL-17, gamma interferon, CD20, Blys, and JAK .  We have listed only a few of our publications which are linked their abstracts at the National Library of Medicine.

A comparison of etanercept and methotrexate in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis.  Bathon JM, Martin RW, Fleischmann RM, Tesser JR, Schiff MH, Keystone EC, Genovese MC, Wasko MC, Moreland LW, Weaver AL, Markenson J, Finck BK.  N Engl J Med. 2000;343:1586-93.

Etanercept versus methotrexate in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis: two-year radiographic and clinical outcomes.  Genovese MC, Bathon JM, Martin RW, Fleischmann RM, Tesser JR, Schiff MH, Keystone EC, Wasko MC, Moreland LW, Weaver AL, Markenson J, Cannon GW, Spencer-Green G, Finck BK. Arthritis Rheum. 2002 Jun;46(6):1443-50.

Safety and efficacy of etanercept beyond 10 years of therapy in North American patients with early and longstanding rheumatoid arthritis.  Weinblatt ME, Bathon JM, Kremer JM, Fleischmann RM, Schiff MH, Martin RW, Baumgartner SW, Park GS, Mancini EL, Genovese MC. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) 2010;63:373-82

Psoriatic Arthritis

West Michigan Rheumatology was one of the original investigational sites for Enbrel – the first biologic approved for use in psoriatic arthritis.  We also performed the early phase 1 and studies of Brodalumab (a monoclonal antibody directed against interleuken-17) in rheumatoid arthritis.  Subsequently we conducted several clinical trials of its effectiveness and safety in patients with Psoriatic Arthritis. Our participation evaluating this novel therapeutic target is an extension of this series of investigations and shows our committment to helping explore the possible conditions that could potentially benefit from targeted biologic therapy, including psoriatic arthritis.

Pneumococcal vaccine response in psoriatic arthritis patients during treatment with etanercept. Mease PJ, Ritchlin CT, Martin RW, Gottlieb AB, Baumgartner SW, Burge DJ, Whitmore JB.  J Rheumatol. 2004 Jul;31(7):1356-61.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosis

There remains a great unmet need for new effective and safe treatments for SLE. We have participated in a number of investigations of studies from preclinical, phase 1, 2 and 3 for three separate molecules designed to treat SLE. The search for more effective therapies for SLE continues.

  • Resolve – 132 MD Phase 0/1 study.  Clinical correlation of U1 RNA and Y1 RNA gene signatures in patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosis.  (Resolve Therapeutics).
  • Resolve-132 MD Phase 1 study. Safety and Biologic effects of anti RNA Immune Complex Monoclonal antibody on U1 RNA and Y1 RNA gene signatures in patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosis. (Resolve Therapeutics).
  •  Pharmacokinetic Evaluation of Tabatumab Following Subcutaneous Administration in Systemic Lupus. Protocol H9B-MC-BCEI. (Eli Lilly).
  • A Phase III Multi-center Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled, 52-Week Study to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety of Subcutaneous LY2127399 in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. (Eli Lilly).
  • TULIP (Treatment of Uncontrolled Lupus via the Interferon Pathway) study that evaluated the effectiveness and safety of anifrolumab versus placebo in patients with moderately to severely active, autoantibody-positive SLE (AstraZeneca).

Polymyositis & Dermatomyositis

This is another condition where there is a great unmet need for new treatments. We have participated in a phase 1b study of the anti-CD20 small modular immunopharmaceutical TRU-15 for polymyositis and dermatomyositis. In addition, Dr. Eggebeen, who has advanced training in myositis care at the University of Pittsburg, had done translational research linking myositis associated antibodies to the development of intersitial lung disease. Subsequently Dr. Eggebeen was a principle investigator in the National Institute of Health funded, first of it kind trial the “Rituximab in Myositis Study”.

Patient Decision Making and Support with Decision Aids 

To translate novel biologic therapeutics from the bench to the bedside, a recent thread of our RA research involves the assessment of literacy, factors that influence patient decision quality, patient skills to interpret risk, and the development of decision aids to support patient choice.  We have listed only a few of our publications which are linked their abstracts at the National Library of Medicine.

Martin RW, Wanke LE.  Etanercept Plus a Patient Education and Support System Improve Health Related Quality of Life in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients in a Clinical Setting.  Arthritis Rheum 2003;48:S424.

Martin RW, Raykov T, Head AJ, Feichtner J,  Holmes-Rovner M. Rheumatoid Arthritis DMARD Knowledge Profile: Development and Validation. Arthritis Rheum 2006;54:S700.

Martin RW, Swartz T , McIntyre B, Holmes-Rovner M. Effectiveness of Disease Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drug Risk Communication in Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Arthritis Rheum 2006;54:S369.

Martin RW, Bader LA Head AJ Turbergen EJ, Holmes-Rovner M.  Identifying Patients Who Need Low Literacy Materials to Support Anti-Rheumatic Drug Decision Making.  Arthritis Rheum 2007;56:S109.

Martin RW, Holmes-Rovner M, Raykov T.  Does Depression Modify Patient Appraisal of Anti-rheumatic Drug Treatment Effects? Society for Medical Decision Making Pittsburg, PA 2007.

Martin RW, Head AJ, Holmes-Rovner M.  Ability to Interpret Statements of Numeric Risk and Patient Satisfaction with Anti-Rheumatic Risk Communication.  Society for Medical Decision Making Pittsburg, PA 2007.

Martin RW, Head AH, Birmingham JB, Eggebeen AT. Gregory JK. Use of Patient Historical Clues to Predict Weekly Raynauds Condition Score Measured by Electronic Digital Diary. Arthritis Rheum 2008;59:S.

Martin RW, Head AJ, Rene J, Swartz TJ, Fiechtner JJ, McIntosh BA, Holmes-Rovner M. Patient Decision Making of Anti-Rheumatic Drugs: The Importance of Patient Trust of Physician.   J. Rheumatology 2008; 35:615-24.

Martin RW, Gallagher PJ, Eggebeen AT, Head AJ. A Decision Aid for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Considering Methotrexate Therapy. Arthritis Rheum 2009;60:S324.

Martin RW, Gallagher PJ, Tellinghuisen DJ. Can the Results of Laboratory Based Message Framing Experiments Be Generalized to Patients?  Plenary presentation Society for Medical Decision Making. Chicago, IL. 2011.

Martin RW, Head  AJ., Birmingham JD, Eggebeen AT. Does Biased Risk Perception Explain the Underuse of Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs? Arthritis Rheum 2012;64 Suppl 10 :382 DOI: 10.1002/art.38117.

Martin RW, Brower ME, Geralds A, Gallagher PJ, Tellinghuisen DJ. An experimental evaluation of patient decision aid design to communicate the effects of medications on the rate of progression of structural joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis. Patient Educ Couns 2012; 86: 331-336. 

Martin RW.  Communicating the Risk of Side Effects to Patients with Rheumatic Diseases. InCush J and Dao K. Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America. Therapeutic Toxicities in Rheumatic Disease Patients. 2012;38(4):653-62.

Feldman-Stewart D, O’Brien MA, Clayman M, Davison J, Jimbo M, Labrecque M, Martin RW, Shepherd H. Providing Information About Options. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2013;13(Suppl 2):54. DOI:

Martin RW, McCallops K, Head AJ, Eggebeen AE, Birmingham JD, Tellinghuisen DJ. Influence of Patient Characteristics on Perceived Risks and  Willingness to Take a Proposed Disease Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drug. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2013; 13:89:1-9. DOI:10.1186/1472-6947-13-89.

Martin RW, Enck RD, Tellinghuisen DJ, Eggebeen AT, Birmingham JD, Head AJ. Comparison of the Effects of a Pharmaceutical Industry Decision Guide and Decision Aids on Patient Choice to Intensify Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis Med Decis Mak 2017;37(5):577-588.

Nallani R, Martin RW. Decisional Conflict in Doctor – Patient Discussions about Disease Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs.  Arthritis Rheum 2017; 69 (suppl 10).

Martin RW, Nallani R, Head AD, Eggebeen AT, Birmingham JD, Slavin ET. Patient Beliefs and Preference to Start a Proposed Medication in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2017; 69 (suppl 10).