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This article is part of the supplement: Targeting B cells in autoimmune diseases

Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

B cell depletion in autoimmune disease

Claire Gorman, Maria Leandro and David Isenberg*

Author Affiliations

Centre for Rheumatology, The Middlesex Hospital, University College London, UK

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Arthritis Res Ther 2003, 5(Suppl 4):S17-S21  doi:10.1186/ar1007

Published: 2 October 2003


The CD20 cell marker appears early in the process of B cell development. In this review we focus on the results of attempts to utilize B cell depletion based on the use of a chimeric monoclonal antibody (MAb) specific for human CD20, rituximab, for the treatment of patients with autoimmune diseases. In 1997, rituximab was approved for the treatment of low-grade B cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Following these encouraging results, rituximab started to be used experimentally in other diseases presumed to be due to B cell pathology. The first autoimmune disease to be treated effectively was chronic idiopathic thrombocytopaenia. More recent success has been demonstrated in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

autoimmune disease; B cell depletion; rituximab