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Mult Scler. 2018 Aug;24(9):1224-1233. doi: 10.1177/1352458517720044. Epub 2017 Aug 1.

Rituximab in multiple sclerosis: Frequency and clinical relevance of anti-drug antibodies.

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Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden / Center for Molecular Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, Stockholm, Sweden.
Immune Regulation Laboratory, Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Bellinzona, Switzerland.



Rituximab is a chimeric monoclonal anti-CD20 B-cell-depleting antibody increasingly used off-label in multiple sclerosis (MS). The clinical relevance of anti-drug antibodies (ADAs) against rituximab in MS is unknown.


To determine frequency of ADA in relation to B-cell counts, allergic reactions and clinical efficacy in a large cohort of MS-treated patients.


Cross-sectional study with collection of serum samples from 339 MS patients immediately before a scheduled rituximab infusion. ADAs were detected using an in-house-validated electrochemiluminescent immunoassay and a commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to compare methods. Data on patient demographics and clinical outcomes were retrieved from the Swedish MS Registry and patient records.


ADAs were detected in 37% of relapsing-remitting MS and 26% in progressive forms of MS. Presence of ADAs decreased with increasing number of rituximab infusions. There was a significant association between both presence and titres of ADAs and incomplete B-cell depletion, but not with infusion/adverse reactions or clinical outcomes at the group level. Only five patients terminated rituximab during follow-up, four of which were ADA positive.


Rituximab treatment is associated with a high degree of ADAs, which correlates with efficacy of B-cell depletion; however, the clinical relevance of ADAs remains uncertain.


Antidrug antibodies; B-cell depletion; MAb; anti-CD20; immunogenicity; multiple sclerosis; rituximab


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