The discovery of the association of ANCA in patients with Wegener’s granulomatosis was reported by a European group working in Denmark and The Netherlands in 1985. Assays for ANCA were developed by several groups over the next few years and a formal European Union collaborative project which aimed to determine the diagnostic role of ANCA in vasculitis was convened by Fokko van der Woude in 1989. This project was funded by the Bureau Central de Reference, an office of the European Union, and started with seven centres, subsequently growing to 14 – the EC/BCR ANCA study. After a series of reports concerning the methodology and standardisation of ANCA assays this project was concluded by a final report in 1996.
In 1994 Niels Rasmussen and members of the EC/BCR study obtained a grant from the European Union BIOMED 1 programme to develop clinical trial methodology for vasculitis and conduct three randomised controlled trials and one single limb - the ECSYSVASTRIAL project. The trials were launched in 1995 which aimed to compare established therapies of vasculitis and assess the role of lymphocyte depleting therapies. The results were published between 2003 and 2007 (NORAM, CYCAZAREM, MEPEX and SOLUTION). Parallel studies examined kidney histology and the role of ANCA in disease monitoring and nasal carriage of staphylococcus aureus (RENHIS, RELANCA and SAVAS). Over 40 centres participated in these studies.
A second European Union grant was awarded under the BIOMED 2 programme for a further wave of trials in 1999 – the AVERT project. Three trials were commenced, two are completed (CYCLOPS and IMPROVE) and one is ongoing (REMAIN).
In partnership with the pharmaceutical industry three investigator initiated randomised controlled trials of newer therapies were launched in 2006 (RITUXVAS), 2007 (MYCYC) and 2008 (ABAVAS). One was published in 2010 (RITUXVAS), one was terminated early (ABAVAS) and the third one closed recruitment in 2011 (MYCYC).
A grant was awarded by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) in 2005 to continue the development of disease assessment in vasculitis and to conduct two consensus recommendations statement projects, in clinical trials methodology, published in 2007, and in the management of vasculitis, published in 2009.