Successful long-term treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus with rituximab maintenance therapy

Lupus. 2003;12(10):779-82. doi: 10.1191/0961203303lu449cr.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease that may involve multiple organ systems. Treatment consists of immunosuppression, cytotoxic treatment, plasmapheresis and immunoglobuline therapy. Treatment of patients refractory to standard treatment approaches is difficult and results are poor. We describe a 39-year old patient with SLE suffering from grand mal epilepsy due to cerebral vasculopathy with positive lupus anticoagulant, who was refractory to standard treatment modalities. The patient was treated with the anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody rituximab (375 mg/m2 x 4, repeated at weekly intervals). Rituximab applications were delivered in October 2000, March 2001 and October 2001. Since March 2002 she has received maintenance therapy with rituximab 375 mg/m2 every three months. A second female with refractory SLE was treated successfully in April 2002 and receives maintenance therapy every three months. Both patients responded well to rituximab therapy. The first patient showed a major improvement of her clinical condition, and 30 months after the beginning of the rituximab therapy she is free of any symptoms. Inflammation parameters, ANA and lupus anticoagulant declined significantly after the treatment. The clinical condition of the second patient improved dramatically, all inflammation parameters normalized and her circulating immunocomplexes disappeared. In conclusion, rituximab maintenance treatment may be a new effective therapy in SLE.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Rituximab


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Rituximab