The efficiency of B-cell depletion therapy for severe ocular cicatricial pemphigoid (OCP) highlights the key role of B lymphocytes in the immunopathogenesis of OCP. B-cell activating factor (BAFF) is a potent B-cell growth factor and costimulator of immunoglobulin production. Elevated serum BAFF is associated with systemic autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and bullous pemphigoid. We hypothesize that serum BAFF levels are also increased in patients with OCP.
Sera were collected from 30 patients with new-onset active OCP, 9 with disease in remission, 10 with OCP relapse, and 15 healthy control individuals. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was performed to measure the concentration of serum BAFF.
BAFF was significantly higher in patients with new-onset active OCP (700.8 ± 181.8 pg/mL) than in healthy control individuals (564.1 ± 133.2 pg/mL; p = 0.014). No significant difference was found between patients with OCP in remission (585.4 ± 216.2 pg/mL) and healthy control individuals. Patients with disease relapse treated with rituximab had an extremely high concentration of BAFF (1721.9 ± 790.8 pg/mL). Longitudinal analysis of serum BAFF from 6 patients showed that BAFF decreased as the disease went from new onset (895.0 ± 240.8 pg/mL) to remission (625.4 ± 199.8 pg/mL; p = 0.003).
BAFF is involved in the active inflammation of OCP. Targeting BAFF with an antagonist may be therapeutically beneficial for patients with refractory OCP, especially those resistant to rituximab.

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