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Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2011 Aug 2;7(9):551-6. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2011.108.

Are autoantibodies the targets of B-cell-directed therapy?

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  • 1Department of Medicine and Immunology, Medical Research Service, Durham VA Hospital, NC 27705, USA.


B-cell-directed therapy-the use of agents that eliminate B cells or block cytokines important for B-cell function-is emerging as a promising approach to the treatment of rheumatic disease. Target diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), display diverse patterns of autoantibody production and aberrant activation of B cells. Despite the success of this general approach, the mechanisms by which B-cell-directed therapy ameliorates disease, and the role of autoantibodies as biomarkers of clinical response remain unclear. Importantly, although B-cell-directed therapy can reduce the production of some autoantibodies, the effects can be variable and heterogeneous, probably reflecting the critical (but ill-defined) roles of different B-cell and plasma cell populations in autoantibody production. Future studies during clinical trials of these agents are needed to define which B-cell and autoantibody populations are affected (or ought to be), and to discover informative biomarkers of clinical response that can be used to advance this therapeutic approach.

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