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Mod Rheumatol. 2010 Feb;20(1):1-10. doi: 10.1007/s10165-009-0213-x. Epub 2009 Aug 8.

A perspective on B-cell-targeting therapy for SLE.

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Division of Allergy Immunology Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center, 601 Elmwood Ave, Room G-6427C, Rochester, NY, 14642, USA. John_Looney@URMC.Rochester.Edu


In recent years, large controlled trials have tested several new agents for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Unfortunately, none of these trials has met its primary outcome. This does not mean progress has not been made. In fact, a great deal has been learned about doing clinical trials in lupus and about the biological and clinical effects of the drugs being tested. Many of these drugs were designed to target B cells directly, e.g., rituximab, belimumab, epratuzumab, and transmembrane activator and calcium modulator and cyclophilin ligand interactor-immunoglobulin (TACI-Ig). The enthusiasm for targeting B cells derives from substantial evidence showing the critical role of B cells in murine models of SLE, as well promising results from multiple open trials with rituximab, a chimeric anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody that specifically depletes B cells (Martin and Chan in Immunity 20(5):517-527, 2004; Sobel et al. in J Exp Med 173:1441-1449, 1991; Silverman and Weisman in Arthritis Rheum 48:1484-1492, 2003; Silverman in Arthritis Rheum 52(4):1342, 2005; Shlomchik et al. in Nat Rev Immunol 1:147-153, 2001; Looney et al. in Arthritis Rheum 50:2580-2589, 2004; Lu et al. in Arthritis Rheum 61(4):482-487, 2009; Saito et al. in Lupus 12(10):798-800, 2003; van Vollenhoven et al. in Scand J Rheumatol 33(6):423-427, 2004; Sfikakis et al. Arthritis Rheum 52(2):501-513, 2005). Why have the controlled trials of B-cell-targeting therapies failed to demonstrate efficacy? Were there flaws in design or execution of these trials? Or, were promising animal studies and open trials misleading, as so often happens? This perspective discusses the current state of B-cell-targeting therapies for human lupus and the future development of these therapies.

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