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Tocilizumab in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: an evidence-based review and patient selection

Authors Biggioggero M, Crotti C, Becciolini A, Favalli EG

Received 30 August 2018

Accepted for publication 30 November 2018

Published 19 December 2018 Volume 2019:13 Pages 57—70

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/DDDT.S150580

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Cristina Weinberg

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Prof. Dr. Cristiana Tanase


Martina Biggioggero,1 Chiara Crotti,2 Andrea Becciolini,1 Ennio Giulio Favalli1

1Department of Rheumatology, Gaetano Pini Institute, Milan, Italy; 2Department of Clinical Sciences and Health Community, University of Milan, Division of Rheumatology, Gaetano Pini Institute, Milan, Italy

Abstract: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by articular and systemic manifestations, such as anemia, fatigue, osteoporosis, and increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. The pathogenesis of RA is driven by a complex network of proinflammatory cytokines, with a pivotal role of IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). The management of RA has been dramatically changed during the last years by the introduction of a treat-to-target approach aiming to achieve an acceptable disease control. Nowadays, TNF inhibitors (TNFis) are the most frequently prescribed class of biologic therapies, but the significant proportion of patients experiencing the failure of a TNFi led to the development of alternative therapeutic options targeted on different pathways. Considering the increasing number of targeted therapeutic options for RA, there is a growing interest in the identification of potential predictors of clinical response to each available mechanism of action, with the aim to drive the management of the disease toward a personalized approach according to the concept of precision medicine. Tocilizumab (TCZ) is the first humanized anti-IL-6 receptor subunit alpha (anti-IL-6R) monoclonal antibody approved for the treatment of RA refractory to methotrexate or TNFis. TCZ inhibits both the cis- and trans-signaling cascades involving the Janus kinase-signal transducer and the activator of transcription pathway, playing a crucial role in modulating not only joint inflammation but also the previously mentioned extra-articular manifestations and comorbidities of RA, such as fatigue, anemia, bone loss, depression, type 2 diabetes, and increased cardiovascular risk. In this review, moving from pathogenetic insights and evidence-based clinical data from randomized controlled trials and real-life observational studies, we will discuss the drivers for the selection of patient candidates to receive TCZ, in order to clarify the current positioning of this drug in the treatment algorithm of RA.

Keywords: IL-6, profiling, clinical trials, efficacy, real-life

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