Cure hope for patients suffering same genetic illness that blighted life of ...

Patients suffering the same genetic illness that blighted the life of Sir Keir Starmer’s mother now have hope of a cure, thanks to new breakthrough drugs.

The Labour Party leader spoke movingly on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs last week of the illness she suffered, Still’s disease.

As a young teenager, he was once told she might die during one bout of severe symptoms and faced the prospect of telling his siblings the awful news.

In fact, Sir Keir’s mother Josephine survived. Although ultimately wheelchair-bound and unable to talk, she lived long enough to see him knighted in 2014 and passed away the following year.

In an earlier interview, the 58-year-old former lawyer – who once led a successful retrial of Stephen Lawrence’s killers – said: ‘I remember as a child spending many nights by her bedside in hospital worrying about what might happen to her. In the end, things were very difficult. 

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Sir Keir Starmer, pictured during Prime Minister's Questions on November 11, spoke movingly on BBC Radio 4¿s Desert Island Discs last week of the illness his mother suffered, Still¿s disease

Sir Keir Starmer, pictured during Prime Minister's Questions on November 11, spoke movingly on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs last week of the illness his mother suffered, Still’s disease

‘For the last ten years of her life, mum could not move or talk. One of the great sadnesses for me was this meant she was never able to talk to my children, who were born after she lost her voice.’

What makes Josephine’s story even more poignant is that, in the five years since her death, treatment of Still’s disease has advanced beyond all recognition.

‘Newer treatments have transformed the outlook for most patients,’ says Rob Moots, professor of rheumatology at Edge Hill University in Lancashire.

‘One patient is in her early 40s with two young children and could not walk or get out of bed when she first came to see me.

‘Now that she is on the right treatment, she’s back at work and able to pick up her children from school.’

Today, an army of new drugs can curb the immune system reaction that causes the agonising symptoms of Still’s. They include excruciating pain in the limbs, skin rashes, fevers and fatigue.

It means 80 per cent of patients are now able to go back to work and take an active role caring for their children or grandchildren.

Still’s disease is a rare genetic condition, affecting about 800 Britons. It is a form of arthritis triggered when the immune system goes haywire, often as an

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