Rituximab in the treatment of refractory or relapsing eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Churg-Strauss syndrome)
1 Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, University Medical Center Freiburg, Hugstetterstrasse 55, 79106 Freiburg, Germany
2 Center for Chronic Immunodeficiency, University Medical Center Freiburg, Hugstetterstrasse 55, 79106 Freiburg, Germany
3 University Hospital Freiburg, Hugstetterstrasse 55, 79106 Freiburg, Germany
Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:R133 doi:10.1186/ar4313Published: 24 September 2013
Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA) is part of antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCAs)-associated vasculitides. In EGPA small-vessel vasculitis is associated with eosinophilia and asthma. About 40% of EGPA patients are ANCA-positive, suggesting a role for B cells in the pathogenesis of EGPA. B cell-depleting therapy with rituximab (RTX) can be effective in ANCA-positive EGPA, but very few patients have been published to date. The role of RTX in the treatment of ANCA-negative EGPA is unclear.
We report a single-center cohort of patients with eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis. Of these patients, nine (six ANCA-positive, three ANCA-negative) had been treated with RTX for relapsing or refractory disease on standard immunosuppressive treatment. In a retrospective analysis, data on treatment response, frequency of relapses, adverse events, and peripheral B-cell reconstitution were evaluated. Furthermore, serum immunoglobulin concentrations, ANCA status, and peripheral B cell subpopulations were assessed after RTX treatment.
All patients had high disease activity before RTX treatment. At presentation 3 months after RTX therapy, all ANCA-positive and ANCA-negative patients had responded to RTX, with one patient being in complete remission, and eight patients being in partial remission. After a mean follow-up of 9 months, C-reactive protein concentrations had normalized, eosinophils had significantly decreased, and prednisone had been tapered in all patients. In all patients, RTX therapy was combined with a standard immunosuppressive therapy. Within the 9-month observation period, no relapse was recorded. Three patients were preemptively retreated with RTX, and during the median follow-up time of 3 years, no relapse occurred in these patients. During the follow-up of 13 patient-years, five minor but no major infections were recorded.
In our analysis on nine patients with EGPA resistant to standard therapy, rituximab proved to be an efficient and safe treatment for ANCA-positive and ANCA-negative patients. Preemptive retreatment with RTX, combined with standard maintenance immunosuppressants, resulted in a sustained treatment response. Prospective, randomized trials evaluating the use of RTX in EGPA are warranted.