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Rheumatological diseases affect a large sector of the population and lead to chronic pain, disability, reduced quality of life, and in many cases, shortened life span. The monetary costs are huge with respect to lost earnings, as well as direct health care costs.

The Rheumatology Department strives to augment its clinical rheumatology services with research programs into the epidemiology, causation and complications of rheumatic diseases (“bedside to bench”), coupled with the evaluation of new generations of pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of arthritis (“bench to bedside”). These rheumatic diseases include Sjögren’s syndrome, giant cell arteritis, osteoarthritis, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, and fibromyalgia.

We are always looking for exceptional students to participate in our research projects. Please read the information under the “Proejcts” tab and contact Sue Lester for more information.

Recent Publications

In 2021 our group contributed to 41 peer-reviewed publications, while in 2020 there were 48 peer-reviewed publications.



Alumni – postgraduate degrees awarded since 2010

NameDegreeYear AwardedTitle of Thesis and supervisors
Joanna TieuPhD, The University of Adelaide2022Optimising management in ANCA-associated vasculitis (Supervisors: Hill C, Proudman S, Jayne D (University of Cambridge, UK))
Rachel BlackPhD, The University of Adelaide2019The epidemiology of glucocorticoid prescribing and opthalmaological side effects in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (Supervisors: Hill C, Dixon WG, Cleland L)
Aden LauPhD, The University of Adelaide2018An immunological perspective of the mucosal inflammation in chronic rhinosinusitis - Lymphoid neo-organogenesis and humoral immunity (Supervisors: Vreugde S, Rischmueller M, Lester S)
Aden LauMaster of Biotechnology, The University of Adelaide2014Inflammasome priming in salivary gland epithelial cells – a disease model for primary Sjögren’s syndrome (Supervisors: Lester S, Rischmueller M)
Eugene RoscioliPhD, The University of Adelaide2013The role of Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins in normal and asthma effected airway epithelial cells (Supervisors: Zalewski P, Lester S, Ruffin R)
Emma DunstanHonours, The University of Adelaide2012Epidemiological and genetic investigation of giant cell arteritis in South Australia (Supervisors: Lester S, Hill C)
Prof Catherine Hill: Student Research Projects for 2022
Please read about the Rheumatology Research Group's current projects and contact Chief Medical Scientist [email protected] or Lead Researcher [email protected] to discuss your options further.
The epidemiology of Polymyalgia Rheumatica
Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory syndrome with pain or stiffness, usually in the neck, shoulders, upper arms, and hips, but which may occur all over the body. The aim of this project is to perform a systematic review of the epidemiology of PMR and to determine the epidemiology, clinical features and management of PMR in Australia, using available Australian General Practice Data.
Healthcare utilization in patients with chronic musculoskeletal disorders
The North West Adelaide Health Study (NWAHS) is a representative biomedical population cohort study of approximately 4000 adults aged 18 years and over recruited from the northern and western regions of Adelaide. The study was designed to assess the prevalence of priority conditions and to inform policy decisions about health care provision in South Australia, and NWAHS Stage 2 data collection specifically focused on information relating to musculoskeletal conditions. The aim of this project is to determine healthcare utilisation in patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions, using NWAHS data integrated with Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data.  
Development of a glucocorticoid impact questionnaire
Glucocorticoids (GC) are a class of steroid hormones with immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory effects. However, they are also associated with a number of side effects. While the treating clinician may focus on the most clinically serious GC related adverse effects, such as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and bone density loss, little is known about the patient perspective of the impact of GC treatment. The aim of this project is to develop a question to measure the impact of GC treatment from a patient perspective. These types of patient reported outcome measures (PROM) are a new era in clinical research which will enable more patient-centred treatment decisions.  
Mortality and cancer risk associated with anti-Ro and anti-La autoantibodies

Primary Sjögren’s syndrome (pSS) is a common, systemic autoimmune disorder, which affects predominantly women.

Pro-Inflammatory effects of autoantibody containing immune complexes

Autoantibody-formed immune complexes have long been implicated in mechanisms of systemic autoimmune diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and primary Sjogren’s Syndrome (pSS).

Molecular subsetting of interferon pathways in primary Sjögrens Syndrome

Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome (SS) is a chronic, autoimmune inflammatory disease which is characterized by lymphocytic infiltration of the salivary and lacrimal glands, resulting in abnormal tear and saliva secretion.


To find about more about the A3BC please visit their website.

If you are interested in being a part of A3BC, are aged over 18 years, and have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Vasculitis and other adult musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases please fill in the permission to contact form and send to [email protected]



“A randomised trial of colchicine for osteoarthritis of the hand” (COLAH)

Hand osteoarthritis is very common amongst older Australians and results in severe impairment in daily living activities for many people. There are currently few treatments available. This trial is testing a medication called colchicine, typically prescribed for acute treatment of joint paint in gout, for the treatment of osteoarthritis in the hand.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is seeking volunteers with hand pain (fingers/thumbs) aged 40-80 years who:

  • Have significant hand pain on most days
  • Do not have other types of arthritis (rheumatoid, psoriasis, gout, lupus)
  • Can attend SAHMRI on North Terrace for ultrasounds and TQEH for other appointments

For more information please contact:

Rheumatology Unit, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Phone: +61 8 8222 7369 (Carlee Reudiger/Kate Dyer)

Email: [email protected]



Chief InvestigatorsGranting BodyProject TitleType of GrantTotal Grant AmountFunding Period
Black RAustralian Rheumatology AssociationReassessing the mortality gap in Rheumatoid Arthritis in AustraliaBarbara Cameron Research Fellowship$50,0002020
Hill CL, Black RArthritis AustraliaDevelopment of a patient reported outcome measure (PROM) for glucocorticoid impact in Rheumatic DiseasesProject Grant$15,0002020
Stanton N, Moseley L, Hill CL, Ratcliffe J, Smuck M, Tomkins-Lane CNHMRC (#1161634)Targeting unhelpful pain beliefs to promote physical activity in people with knee osteoarthritis: a multi-centre, randomised controlled trial with cost-effectiveness analysisProject Grant$1,196,2572019 - 2021
Davis C, Hill C, Murphy K, Ruediger CArthritis AustraliaComparison of dietary oils in osteoarthritis patients: a feasibility studySmall grant$15,0002019
Whittle SThe Hospital Research FoundationAustralia and New Zealand Musculoskeletal Trials Network (ANZMUSC)Leverage funding for NHMRC CRE Practitioner Fellowship$150,0002018 - 2021
Aitken D, Jones G, Cicuttini F, Winzenberg T, Keen H, AI: Hill CNHMRC (#1102733)DICKENS - A randomised controlled trial of DIaCerein to treat KneE osteoarathritis with effusioN-Synovitis. Multi-centre trial with TQEH as one of 4 recruiting centresProject Grant$1,309,5032018 - 2020
Hill CL, Rischmueller M, March LThe Hospital Research FoundationThe Australian Arthritis and Autoimmune Biobank Collaborative (A3BC)Project Grant$233,1182017 - 2020
Hill CL, Rischmueller M, March LUniversity of SydneyThe Australian Arthritis and Autoimmune Biobank Collaborative (A3BC)Project Grant$150,0002017 - 2020
Davis C, Hill C, Murphy K, Ruediger CArthritis AustraliaComparison of dietary oils in osteoarthritis patients: a feasibility studySmall Grant$15,0002019
Tieu JNHMRCOptimising therapy in ANCA-associated vasculitisPostgraduate Research Scholarship$119,1872017 - 2019
Teichtahl A et al, inc Hill CNHMRC (#1127981)METHODS - A randomised controlled trial of METhoxtrexate to treat Hand Osteoarthritis with synovitisProject Grant$770,0142017 - 2019
Keen H, Whittle S, Delir Haghighi P, Sharma CArthritis AustraliaCommunity perceptions of rheumatoid arthritis pharmacotherapy: An analysis of social media platformsProject Grant$35,0002018
Hill CLThe Hospital Research FoundationRandomised Clinical Trial of Colchicine in inflammatory hand arthritisProject Grant $40,0002017 - 2018
Jones G, Wluka A, Hill CL, March
L, Keen H, Laslett L
NHMRC (#1102732)A randomised trial of krill oil for
osteoarthritis of the knee
Project Grant$767,9462016 - 2018
Hill CL, Ruediger CArthritis Australia/The Hospital Research FoundationA randomised clinical trial of colchidine in inflammatory hand osteoarthritisProject Grant$50,0002017
Brown MA, Merriman T, Rischmueller M, Hewitt A, Harrison A, Hill CArthritis AustraliaExtraction of DNA from GCA patient biopsiesProject Grant$25,0002013
Wormald PJ, Koblar SA, Lang CJ, Lester S, Rischmueller M, Tan LW, Zalewski PThe Hospital Research Foundation (THRF)Inflammatory mechanisms and therapies in chronic disease - asthma, COPD, stroke, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatology diseases and chronic rhinosinusitisStrategic Initiatives Funding Program Grant$175,0002009 - 2011
Tran H, Zalewski P, Lester SArthritis AustraliaInflammatory Effects of Immune complexesProject Grant$20,0002012
Brown M, Merriman T, Rischmueller MArthritis AustraliaThe Australasian Arthritis Genomics Recruitment Collaborative: Infrastructure for establishing a quality clinical resource for genetic researchProject Grant$50,0002011


A/Prof Rischmueller and Sue Lester have an on-going international collaborations with both SGENE and SLEGEN which are international consortia to research genetic associations with Sjðgren’s syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus respectively. SGENE has already published the first genome wide association study for Sjðgren’s syndrome (in Nature Genetics in November 2012) and patient recruitment is ongoing with the aim of studying the genetics of lymphoma risk. In 2014, SGENE and SLEGEN have combined to publish finer mapping of the associations for the IRF5-TNOP3 region, a common suceptibility region for both diseases

A/Prof Rischmueller, Prof Hill and Sue Lester have an on-going collaboration with the Australasian Genomics Recruitment Initiative in Australasia (AGRIA), which is collecting samples from Australia and New Zealand for genetic studies of Giant Cell Arteritis, gout, ankylosing spondylitis and Sjögren’s syndrome. The Giant Cell Arteritis component is funded by a current NHMRC grant. This has an international collaboration with Prof Ann Morgan (Leeds), Tony Merriman (Otago) and Javier Martin (Spain).


A/Prof Rischmueller has an on-going with Dr Fabien Vincent and Professor Fabienne Mackay (Immunology department, B lymphocyte, BAFF and Autoimmunity Laboratory, Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct) and Professor Eric Morand (Head of the Lupus Clinic at Southern Health/Monash Medical centre) to investigate, and compare, the role of TACI variants in Sjögren’s syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus phenotypes, B cell subsets and type I interferon expression in plasmacytoid dendritic cells.

A/Prof Rischmueller, Prof Hill and Sue Lester are collaborators with the Australian Scleroderma Interest Group (ASIG) which currently consists of a clinical database of over 1500 patients and a biobank, which is housed at the Basil Hetzel Institute. An Immunochip genome wide association study for this cohort was published in 2014 which identified several novel associations.