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Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2010 Nov;25(11):3586-92. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfq256. Epub 2010 May 11.

Long-term efficacy and safety of rituximab in refractory and relapsing systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Vasculitis and Lupus Clinic, Renal Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge University, Hills Road, UK.



Systemic lupus erythematosus is a relapsing autoimmune disease. Conventional therapy increases the risk of infection and malignancies; furthermore, a minority of patients suffer from refractory disease. B-cell depletion with the chimeric +AFw-anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, rituximab, is an alternative therapy for relapsing and refractory systemic lupus erythematosus. We sought to assess the long-term efficacy and safety of rituximab in this patient subgroup.


Thirty-one sequential patients with relapsing or refractory systemic lupus erythematosus, 11 of whom had active lupus nephritis, received rituximab [either 375 mg/m(2)/week × 4 (n = 16) or 1000 mg × 2 (n = 15)]. The median follow-up was 30 months.


Thirty of 31 (97%) patients had depleted peripheral B cells. Twenty-seven of 31 (87%) patients achieved remission (17 complete, 10 partial). Renal response occurred in 10/11 patients (4 complete, 6 partial) with active glomerulonephritis. Clinical improvement was reflected by reductions of disease activity, proteinuria and daily prednisolone dose. Eighteen of 27 (67%) patients relapsed after a median of 11 months. Relapses occurred on or after the return of circulating B cells in 10 but in the absence of B-cell return in 8. Re-treatment with rituximab was effective. Infusion reactions were common (18/31; 58%), and infections occurred in 8/31 (26%) patients.


Rituximab had a high rate of efficacy in relapsing or refractory systemic lupus erythematosus with or without renal involvement. Although relapse was common, it responded to re-treatment. The contribution of rituximab to infection risk was uncertain in view of the complex disease course and concomitant therapy of the patients studied.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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