Objective: Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) has been detected in sacroiliac joint biopsy specimens from patients with spondylarthropathy. The present open pilot study was undertaken to test the efficacy of the anti-TNFalpha monoclonal antibody infliximab in the treatment of active ankylosing spondylitis (AS).
Methods: Eleven patients with AS of short duration (median 5 years, range 0.5-13 years) that had been active for at least 3 months (range 3-72 months) were treated with 3 infusions of infliximab (at weeks 0, 2, and 6), in a dosage of 5 mg/kg. Ten of the 11 patients had elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels (>6 mg/liter) before treatment; these elevations were known to have had persisted > 1 year in at least 3 patients. The Bath AS Disease Activity Index (BASDAI), the Bath AS Functional Index (BASFI), pain as measured on a visual analog scale, and the Bath AS Metrology Index (BASMI) were assessed. Quality of life was assessed using the Short Form 36 instrument. Laboratory markers of disease activity, including interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels, were determined. Dynamic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine was performed in 5 patients.
Results: One patient withdrew from the study due to the occurrence of urticarial xanthoma 8 days after the first infusion. At study enrollment, 3 of 5 patients had evidence of spinal inflammation (spondylitis and spondylodiscitis) as detected by MRI; followup MRI 2-6 weeks after the third infusion revealed improvement in 2. Improvement of > or = 50% in activity, function, and pain scores was documented in 9 of 10 patients; the median improvement in the BASDAI after 4 weeks was 70% (range 41-94%). This clear-cut benefit lasted for 6 weeks after the third infusion in 8 of 10 patients. The median CRP level decreased from 15.5 mg/liter (range <6-90.8) to normal, and the median IL-6 level from 12.4 mg/liter (range 0-28.4) to normal (<5). There was improvement in all 9 SF-36 concepts; the improvement was significant for 6 concepts.
Conclusion: These data suggest that anti-TNFalpha therapy is very effective for several weeks in AS. Whether this therapy, in addition to its antiinflammatory effect, prevents ankylosis remains to be determined.