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      Current perspective on rituximab in rheumatic diseases

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          Abstract

          The steadily increasing knowledge regarding pathogenetic mechanisms in autoimmune rheumatic diseases has paved the way to different therapeutic approaches. In particular, the market entry of biologics has dramatically modified the natural history of rheumatic chronic inflammatory diseases with a meaningful impact on patients’ quality of life. Among the wide spectrum of available biological treatments, rituximab (RTX), first used in the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was later approved for rheumatoid arthritis and anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies-associated vasculitis. Nowadays, in rheumatology, RTX is also used with off-label indications in patients with systemic sclerosis, Sjögren’s syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus. RTX is a monoclonal antibody directed to CD20 molecules expressed on the surfaces of pre-B and mature B lymphocytes. It acts by causing apoptosis of these cells with antibody- and complement-dependent cytotoxicity. As inflammatory responses to cell-associated immune complexes are key elements in the pathogenesis of several autoimmune rheumatic diseases, such an approach might be effective in these patients. In fact, RTX, by promoting the rapid and long-term depletion of circulating and lymphoid tissue-associated B cells, leads to a lower recruitment of these effector cells at sites of immune complex deposition, thus reducing inflammation and tissue damage. RTX is of the most interest to rheumatologists as it represents an important additional therapeutic approach. Thus, the advent in clinical practice of approved RTX biosimilars, such as CT-P10, may be of help in improving treatment access as well as in reducing costs.

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          Most cited references 89

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          Pregnancy outcomes after maternal exposure to rituximab.

          Rituximab is a chimeric anti-CD20 monoclonal B cell-depleting antibody indicated for certain hematologic malignancies and active rheumatoid arthritis with inadequate response to tumor necrosis factor antagonists. Despite counseling to avoid pregnancy, women may inadvertently become pregnant during or after rituximab treatment. Using the rituximab global drug safety database, we identified 231 pregnancies associated with maternal rituximab exposure. Maternal indications included lymphoma, autoimmune cytopenias, and other autoimmune diseases. Most cases were confounded by concomitant use of potentially teratogenic medications and severe underlying disease. Of 153 pregnancies with known outcomes, 90 resulted in live births. Twenty-two infants were born prematurely; with one neonatal death at 6 weeks. Eleven neonates had hematologic abnormalities; none had corresponding infections. Four neonatal infections were reported (fever, bronchiolitis, cytomegalovirus hepatitis, and chorioamnionitis). Two congenital malformations were identified: clubfoot in one twin, and cardiac malformation in a singleton birth. One maternal death from pre-existing autoimmune thrombocytopenia occurred. Although few congenital malformations or neonatal infections were seen among exposed neonates, women should continue to be counseled to avoid pregnancy for ≤ 12 months after rituximab exposure; however, inadvertent pregnancy does occasionally occur. Practitioners are encouraged to report complete information to regulatory authorities for all pregnancies with suspected or known exposure to rituximab.
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            Effectiveness of rituximab treatment in primary Sjögren's syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

            To study the efficacy and safety of B cell depletion with rituximab, a chimeric murine/human anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS) in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Patients with active primary SS, as determined by the revised American-European Consensus Group criteria, and a rate of stimulated whole saliva secretion of > or =0.15 ml/minute were treated with either rituximab (1,000 mg) or placebo infusions on days 1 and 15. Patients were assigned randomly to a treatment group in a ratio of 2:1 (rituximab:placebo). Followup was conducted at 5, 12, 24, 36, and 48 weeks. The primary end point was the stimulated whole saliva flow rate, while secondary end points included functional, laboratory, and subjective variables. Thirty patients with primary SS (29 female) were randomly allocated to a treatment group. The mean +/- SD age of the patients receiving rituximab was 43 +/- 11 years and the disease duration was 63 +/- 50 months, while patients in the placebo group were age 43 +/- 17 years and had a disease duration of 67 +/- 63 months. In the rituximab group, significant improvements, in terms of the mean change from baseline compared with that in the placebo group, were found for the primary end point of the stimulated whole saliva flow rate (P = 0.038 versus placebo) and also for various laboratory parameters (B cell and rheumatoid factor [RF] levels), subjective parameters (Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory [MFI] scores and visual analog scale [VAS] scores for sicca symptoms), and extraglandular manifestations. Moreover, in comparison with baseline values, rituximab treatment significantly improved the stimulated whole saliva flow rate (P = 0.004) and several other variables (e.g., B cell and RF levels, unstimulated whole saliva flow rate, lacrimal gland function on the lissamine green test, MFI scores, Short Form 36 health survey scores, and VAS scores for sicca symptoms). One patient in the rituximab group developed mild serum sickness-like disease. These results indicate that rituximab is an effective and safe treatment strategy for patients with primary SS.
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              Immunization responses in rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with rituximab: results from a controlled clinical trial.

              To examine immunization responses in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treated with rituximab and to investigate the effects of rituximab-induced CD20+ B cell depletion on immune responses to tetanus toxoid (T cell-dependent antigen), pneumococcal polysaccharide (T cell-independent antigen), and keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) (neoantigen) and on delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH). In a controlled trial, we enrolled 103 patients with active RA receiving a stable dose of methotrexate (MTX). Tetanus toxoid, pneumococcal polysaccharide, and KLH vaccines as well as a Candida albicans skin test were administered to 1 group of patients receiving rituximab plus MTX (called rituximab-treated patients) for 36 weeks and to 1 group of patients receiving MTX alone for 12 weeks. The primary end point was the proportion of patients with a >or=4-fold rise in antitetanus IgG levels. Antitetanus, antipneumococcal, and anti-KLH serum IgG levels were measured prior to and 4 weeks following vaccine administration. The DTH response to C albicans was measured 2-3 days following placement. Responses to tetanus toxoid vaccine (>or=4-fold rise) were similar in both groups (39.1% of rituximab-treated patients and 42.3% of patients treated with MTX alone). The ability to maintain a positive DTH response to the C albicans skin test was comparable in both groups (77.4% of rituximab-treated patients and 70% of patients treated with MTX alone), showing no effect of rituximab treatment. Rituximab-treated patients had decreased responses to pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (57% of patients had a 2-fold rise in titer in response to >or=1 serotype, compared with 82% of patients treated with MTX alone) and to KLH vaccine (47% of patients had detectable anti-KLH IgG, compared with 93% of patients treated with MTX alone). Recall responses to the T cell-dependent protein antigen tetanus toxoid as well as DTH responses were preserved in rituximab-treated RA patients 24 weeks after treatment. Responses to neoantigen (KLH) and T cell-independent responses to pneumococcal vaccine were decreased, but many patients were able to mount responses. These data suggest that polysaccharide and primary immunizations should be administered prior to rituximab infusions to maximize responses.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Drug Des Devel Ther
                Drug Des Devel Ther
                Drug Design, Development and Therapy
                Drug Design, Development and Therapy
                Dove Medical Press
                1177-8881
                2017
                03 October 2017
                : 11
                : 2891-2904
                Affiliations
                Department of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, Division of Rheumatology, ASST Pini, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Francesca Ingegnoli, Department of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, Division of Rheumatology, ASST Pini, Università degli Studi di Milano, Piazza Cardinal Ferrari 1, 20122 Milano, Italy, Tel +39 2 5829 6456, Fax +39 2 5829 6804, Email francesca.ingegnoli@ 123456unimi.it
                Article
                dddt-11-2891
                10.2147/DDDT.S139248
                5633295
                © 2017 Schioppo and Ingegnoli. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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