Update on the use of rituximab for intractable rheumatoid arthritis
R John Looney
University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA
Abstract: It has been 3 years since rituximab, a mouse x human chimeric anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody that selectively depleted B cells, was approved by the FDA for the treatment of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with an inadequate response to anti-TNF therapies. Since approval rituximab has become a part of standard treatment, and additional data have become available on long-term efficacy and safety both from clinical trials and from post-marketing surveillance. In open long-term follow-up from clinical trials, patients treated with multiple courses of rituximab continued to respond in terms of signs and symptoms, and damage assessed radiographically was significantly inhibited. Moreover, the rate of serious infectious events was not increased as the number of courses increased. However, because of case reports of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy in patients treated with rituximab for non-malignant conditions, a black box warning has been added. Studies on the immunologic correlates of response to rituximab treatment including B cell subsets in peripheral blood and synovial biopsies are providing clues into how rituximab works for autoimmune disease. However, at this time we are not able to explain why some patients do not respond and cannot predict who will respond. Future challenges for the further development of rituximab for intractable RA will be discussed.
Keywords: rheumatoid arthritis, rituximab, B cells, immunocompetency
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