Arthritis research & therapy 2017 05 1819(1) 101 doi 10.1186/s13075-017-1306-0
B cell depletion with rituximab (RTX) is approved for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and ANCA-associated vasculitides (AAV). Recently, RTX has been shown to be effective in AAV maintenance therapy, but an optimal RTX treatment schedule is unknown and the time to B cell repopulation after RTX has not been studied.
Retrospective single-center analysis of B cell repopulation in patients with AAV, RA or connective tissue disease (CTD) treated with RTX.
Beginning B cell repopulation within the first year after RTX treatment was observed in 93% of RA and 88% of CTD patients. Only 10% of patients with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA) and microscopic polyangiitis (MPA) and no patient with eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA) showed B cell repopulation within this time. Median time of B cell depletion was 26 months in GPA/MPA, and 21 months in EGPA compared to 9 months in RA, and 8 months in CTD (p < 0.0001). In 25 AAV-patients B cell depletion lasted for at least 44 months. There was a significant decline in serum immunoglobulin concentrations in GPA/MPA patients, but not in patients with RA or CTD. Significantly more GPA/MPA patients developed hygogammaglobulinemia (IgG <7 g/L) compared to patients with RA or CTD. CONCLUSIONS
In contrast to RA and CTD, in AAV RTX induces long-lasting depletion of B cells that is associated with decreased antibody production. This observation points toward potential defects in the B cell compartment in AAV that are unmasked by immunosuppressive treatment and has important implications for the design of maintenance treatment schedules using RTX.