Objective: To report baseline data on 180 patients with Wegener's granulomatosis (WG) enrolled in the WG Etanercept Trial (WGET), and to examine demographic and clinical differences between patients with limited disease and those with severe disease.
Methods: Definitions of limited and severe disease were agreed upon by consensus of the investigators at a pretrial meeting and were incorporated into the protocol as a stratification criterion. These data were applied prospectively to the WGET patient cohort, based on clinical features and the intention to treat patients according to disease activity. Data related to disease onset, date of diagnosis, clinical features, antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody assays, tissue biopsy findings, and other medical history were collected on a baseline medical history form. Physician-investigators from each center participated in the development of this form, and all were certified in its use prior to the start of the trial. Selected data on patients who were screened for the trial but were not enrolled were also collected.
Results: Several significant differences between the limited and severe disease subsets were observed. Patients with limited disease were nearly a decade younger at disease onset compared with patients with severe disease. Thirty-three percent of patients with severe disease were women, compared with 58% of those with limited disease. Despite their younger age at symptom onset, patients with limited disease tended to have longer disease duration, a greater likelihood of experiencing exacerbation of previous disease following a period of remission, and a higher prevalence of destructive upper respiratory tract disorders at the time of enrollment (e.g., saddle-nose deformity). Patients with limited WG were less likely than those with severe disease to have antibodies to either proteinase 3 or myeloperoxidase. Patients with severe disease had a higher likelihood of previous thyroid disease, particularly either Graves' disease or Hashimoto thyroiditis, suggesting the possibility of different pathogenetic factors within these disease subsets. Other observed differences between these subsets, such as the greater frequency of alveolar hemorrhage in the severe disease group, were related to the a priori definitions of limited and severe disease.
Conclusion: There are significant differences between patients with limited WG and those with severe WG with regard to sex, age, the likelihood of recurrent disease, the risk of damage in certain organ systems, and, possibly, etiologic factors. These differences (and perhaps other differences that are currently unrecognized) in patient subsets may have implications for mechanisms of pathogenesis, prognosis, response to treatment, and the design of future clinical investigations.