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Discov Med. 2010 Nov;10(54):416-24.

Targeting B cells for the treatment of SLE: the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

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1
Department of Internal Medicine, Hospital Virgen de la Luz, Cuenca, Spain.

Abstract

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease for which therapeutic advances in immunosuppressive and support therapy have significantly improved survival over the last 5 decades. Unfortunately, SLE still carries substantially increased rates of mortality and end stage renal disease which are even more elevated in younger patients. No new drugs have been approved for SLE in over 50 years. Hence, a lot of hope and excitement has been generated by the development of biological agents designed to eliminate B cells either through direct killing (anti-B cell antibodies such as rituximab) or attrition by inhibition of survival (anti-BLyS/BAFF agents such as belimumab). Indeed a strong rationale for targeting B cells in SLE is supported by the major pathogenic roles they play in SLE through both autoantibody production and multiple antibody-independent functions. These hopes, however, have been darted by the failure of two different phase III randomized placebo-controlled trials of rituximab. Yet, clinicians continue to use rituximab off-label with the belief that it provides significant benefit and can rescue patients with disease that is refractory to current modalities. Moreover, recent positive results of two large controlled trials of belimumab have restored confidence that B cell targeting may after all be of benefit in SLE. In this review we discuss the background and rationale for the use of anti-B cell agents in SLE, review the available results, and provide models that could help reconcile the opposing results observed in different studies. These models could also help frame the design and evaluation of current and future B cell therapies.

PMID:
21122473
PMCID:
PMC4557964
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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