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Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Mar;63(3):603-8. doi: 10.1002/art.30152.

Reduced-dose rituximab in rheumatoid arthritis: efficacy depends on degree of B cell depletion.

Author information

1
National Institute for Health Research Leeds Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit and University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Studies comparing 500 mg rituximab and 1,000 mg rituximab doses in rheumatoid arthritis have yielded conflicting data on clinical outcomes, but in all of these studies a subgroup of patients has had excellent responses at the lower dose. Historically, it was considered that rituximab uniformly depleted B cells at both doses. Using highly sensitive assays, we have shown that B cell depletion is variable and predictive of clinical response. Using the same techniques, we undertook the present study to test the hypothesis that the level of B cell depletion, rather than the rituximab dose, determines clinical response.

METHODS:

Nineteen patients were treated with two 500-mg infusions of rituximab, and 61 patients were treated with two 1,000-mg infusions of rituximab. Highly sensitive flow cytometry was performed at 0, 2, 6, 14, and 26 weeks. European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) response rates at 6 months were compared between patients with and those without complete depletion at each dose.

RESULTS:

The median B cell count was numerically higher at all time points following therapy in the 500 mg rituximab group. Twenty-five percent of patients in the 500 mg rituximab group had complete depletion at 2 weeks, compared with 49% of those in the 1,000 mg rituximab group. Complete depletion at 2 weeks after treatment with 500 mg rituximab was associated with lower baseline preplasma cell counts (P = 0.047). Most patients responded after either dose, but response was related to B cell depletion. Notably, in the 500 mg rituximab group all patients with complete depletion had a EULAR good response (P = 0.011).

CONCLUSION:

This pilot study suggests that the degree of B cell depletion, rather than the dose of rituximab, determines clinical response. It may be possible to predict which patients will respond to lower-dose rituximab, and this may allow more cost-effective treatment.

PMID:
21360489
DOI:
10.1002/art.30152
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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