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The William Harvey Research Institute - Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Professor Costantino Pitzalis


Versus Arthritis Professor of Rheumatology, Deputy Director of the William Harvey Research Institute, and Head of Centre for Experimental Medicine and Rheumatology

Centre: Experimental Medicine and Rheumatology

Telephone: +44(0) 20 7882 2926 (PA: Marianna Tesone)
Twitter: @EMR_QMUL


ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1326-5051

Costantino Pitzalis is Versus Arthritis Professor of Rheumatology at the William Harvey Research Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry Queen Mary University of London.

He is Deputy Director of the William Harvey Research Institute and Head of the Centre for Experimental Medicine and Rheumatology (EULAR Centre of Excellence in Rheumatology 2023-28), leading a multidisciplinary research team of Clinicians, Scientists, Biostatisticians, Bioinformaticians, Clinical Trial Managers and administrative support staff who strive to deliver best care to patients with Rheumatic Diseases.

Costantino also leads the Musculoskeletal Theme of the NIHR Barts BRC 2022-27 which provides the opportunity to tackle health inequalities and deliver pioneering, innovative healthcare to people of east London and beyond.

His research interests focus on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of inflammation and autoimmunity in chronic rheumatic conditions, particularly rheumatoid arthritis (RA). He has published over 300 highly cited peer-reviewed papers in the field of inflammation, immunity, and arthritis.

He was the Chief Investigator of the first 2 stratified, biopsy¬driven, multicentre, randomised clinical trials in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) which were funded by the NIHR and MRC/VA (R4RA and STRAP). These RCTs are the first worldwide biopsy-driven trials that span the disease course from early to late RA and are synchronised for drug exposure. 

His clinical interests encompass general rheumatology with a focus on immune/inflammatory rheumatic diseases, including rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis as well as other autoimmune rheumatic conditions (CTDs & Sjogren’s Syndrome) and osteoarthritis.


Group members:

The Centre for Experimental Medicine and Rheumatology’s mission is to better understand disease pathogenesis in order to develop novel therapeutics and maximise therapeutic utility of existing therapies. The ultimate goal is to find a cure for rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

To achieve this goal the Centre focuses on a strong basic science programme in the field of immunology & inflammation linked to a clinical translational programme in the following 4 research areas:

  1. Breach of Tolerance & Autoimmunity

    Investigating development of T/B cell autoimmunity in secondary- vs tertiary-lymphoid-structures and in early vs established RA (Bombardieri / Pitzalis); b) Role of FDCs and RASF in auto-antigen retention and breach of B cell tolerance (ElShikh / Pitzalis) and c) analysis of the antigenic specificities of lesional T and B cells (Bombardieri / Pitzalis).

  2. Development and resolution of inflammation & Mechanisms of Tissue Damage and Repair

    Mechanisms of T and B cell recruitment and retention using in vivo models (eg. RA/SCID/)(Bombardieri/Pitzalis); b) Resolution-of-inflammation through endogenous anti-inflammatory pathway. This area is investigated/developed through a long-standing collaboration with Prof Perretti and c) Mechanisms of Tissue Damage and Repair with particular emphasis on cartilage homeostasis. This research area is particular competence of Professor Dell’Accio.

  3. Developing new therapies through understanding of pathogenesis

    The Centre is actively involved in the development of novel therapeutics both through its own drug development programme (e.g. developing single chain (sc)Fv antibodies, identified by phage display technology, to specifically target joint tissues) and, in collaboration with industry, via the progression of the pharma pipeline. The Centre has been awarded an ARUK Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centres and is part of the National Institute for Health Research Translational Research Partnership.

  4. Patients stratification to understand pathogenesis of disease evolution and response to therapy

    The Centre builds on an existing large biomarker discovery and clinical trial programme to identify specific synovial tissue-driven bio-variables and blood correlates of clinical evolution and response to therapy. These include MRC/PEAC, MRC/ABPI and NIHR-EME initiatives. In addition, the ability of targeted biologics (TNF/IL6R/B-cell blockade) to modulate the panoply of RA-associated immune abnormalities will be utilised to better understand and dissect the complex immunological networks in the disease tissue in patients with RA.

More info:

Key Publications

  • Wang SS, Lewis MJ, Pitzalis C ( 2023 ). DNA Methylation Signatures of Response to Conventional Synthetic and Biologic Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Biomedicines vol. 11, (7)
  • Sciacca E, Surace AEA, Alaimo S, Pulvirenti A, Rivellese F, Goldmann K, Ferro A, Latora V et al. (2022). Network analysis of synovial RNA sequencing identifies gene-gene interactions predictive of response in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Research and Therapy vol. 24, (1)
  • Rivellese F, Surace AEA, Goldmann K, Sciacca E, Çubuk C, Giorli G, John CR, Nerviani A et al. (2022 ). Rituximab versus tocilizumab in rheumatoid arthritis: synovial biopsy-based biomarker analysis of the phase 4 R4RA randomized trial. Nature Medicine vol. 28, (6) 1256 - 1268.
  • Humby F, Durez P, Buch MH, Lewis MJ, Rizvi H, Rivellese F, Nerviani A, Giorli G et al. (2021) . Rituximab versus tocilizumab in anti-TNF inadequate responder patients with rheumatoid arthritis (R4RA): 16-week outcomes of a stratified, biopsy-driven, multicentre, open-label, phase 4 randomised controlled trial. The Lancet vol. 397, (10271) 305 - 317.
  • Nerviani A, Di Cicco M, Mahto A, Lliso-Ribera G, Rivellese F, Thorborn G, Hands R, Bellan M et al. (2020). A Pauci-Immune Synovial Pathotype Predicts Inadequate Response to TNFα-Blockade in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients. Frontiers in Immunology vol. 11
  • Rivellese F, Humby F, Bugatti S, Fossati-Jimack L, Rizvi H, Lucchesi D, Lliso-Ribera G, Nerviani A et al. (2020). B cell synovitis and clinical phenotypes in rheumatoid arthritis: relationship to disease stages and drug exposure. Arthritis and Rheumatology
  • Lliso-Ribera G, Humby F, Lewis M, Nerviani A, Mauro D, Rivellese F, Kelly S, Hands R et al. ( 2019 ). Synovial tissue signatures enhance clinical classification and prognostic/treatment response algorithms in early inflammatory arthritis and predict requirement for subsequent biological therapy: Results from the pathobiology of early arthritis cohort (PEAC). Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases vol. 78, (12) 1642 - 1652.




  • Professor Anne Barton
  • Professor Simon Jones
  • Professor Chris Buckley
  • Professor Iain McInnes
  • Professor Peter Taylor
  • Professor Marta Alarcón Riquelme
  • Professor Maya Buch
  • Dr Juan Cañete
  • Professor Eduardo Collantes
  • Professor Patrick Durez
  • Professor Alberto Cauli
  • Professor Ronald Van Vollenhoven
  • Professor João E Fonseca
  • Professor Pier Paolo Sainaghi


  • AbbVie: Consultant/Speaker/Contract Research
  • Janssen: Consultant/Speaker/Contract Research
  • Kinikska: Consultant
  • Norvartis: Contract Research
  • Sanofi: Contract Research
  • Exagen: Consultant
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