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JAMA Neurol. 2015 Jul;72(7):756-63. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.0533.

Long-term Therapy With Interleukin 6 Receptor Blockade in Highly Active Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder.

Author information

1
Department of Neurology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany.
2
Department of Neurology, St Josef Hospital, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.
3
Deutschen Klinik für Diagnostik Helios Klinik Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden, Germany.
4
Department of Neurology, Clinic Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany.

Abstract

IMPORTANCE:

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is characterized by disabling relapses of optic neuritis and myelitis and the presence of aquaporin 4 antibodies (AQP4-abs). Interleukin 6, which is significantly elevated in serum and cerebrospinal fluid of patients with NMO, induces AQP4-ab production by plasmablasts and represents a novel therapeutic target.

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate the long-term safety and efficacy of tocilizumab, a humanized antibody targeting the interleukin 6 receptor, in NMO and NMO spectrum disorder.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:

Retrospective observational study with 10 to 51 months of follow-up between December 2010 and February 2015, in neurology departments at tertiary referral centers. Participants were 8 female patients of white race/ethnicity with highly active AQP4-ab-seropositive NMO (n = 6) and NMO spectrum disorder (n = 2) whose disease had been resistant to previous medications, including B-cell depletion, and who switched to tocilizumab (6-8 mg/kg of body weight per dose).

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:

Annualized relapse rate, Expanded Disability Status Scale score, spinal cord and brain magnetic resonance imaging, AQP4-ab titers, pain levels (numerical rating scale), and adverse effects.

RESULTS:

Patients were followed up for a mean (SD) of 30.9 (15.9) months after switching to tocilizumab. Two of eight patients received add-on therapy with monthly corticosteroid pulses (temporary) or azathioprine, respectively. During tocilizumab treatment, the median annualized relapse rate significantly decreased from 4.0 (interquartile range, 3.0-5.0) in the year before tocilizumab therapy to 0.4 (interquartile range, 0.0-0.8) (P = .008), and the median Expanded Disability Status Scale score significantly decreased from 7.3 (interquartile range, 5.4-8.4) to 5.5 (interquartile range, 2.6-6.5) (P = .03). Active magnetic resonance imaging lesions were seen in 6 of 8 patients at tocilizumab initiation and in 1 of 8 patients at the last magnetic resonance imaging. Three patients remained relapse free during tocilizumab treatment. In 5 patients, a total of 8 relapses occurred, 4 within the first 2½ months of therapy. Five attacks were associated with delayed tocilizumab administration (≥40 days), and 6 attacks were associated with reduced tocilizumab dosage (6 vs 8 mg/kg). The AQP4-ab titers (P = .02) and pain levels (P = .02) dropped significantly during tocilizumab treatment. Adverse effects included moderate cholesterol elevation in 6 of 8 patients, infections in 4 of 8 patients, and deep venous thrombosis and neutropenia in one patient each.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:

Prolonged tocilizumab therapy may be safe and effective from early treatment phases onward for otherwise therapy-resistant highly active NMO and NMO spectrum disorder. Relapse patterns indicate that adherence to a regular therapeutic regimen with monthly infusions of tocilizumab (8 mg/kg) may increase efficacy.

PMID:
25985228
DOI:
10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.0533
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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