Rituximab: expanding role in therapy for lymphomas and autoimmune diseases

Annu Rev Med. 2004;55:477-503. doi: 10.1146/annurev.med.55.091902.104249.


Rituximab (Rituxan) is a human-mouse chimeric monoclonal antibody that targets the B-cell CD20 antigen and causes rapid and specific B-cell depletion. Rituximab was approved in the United States in 1997 to treat low-grade or follicular, relapsed or refractory, CD20-positive B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). Since then, further clinical experience with rituximab has been incorporated into the prescribing information, which now stipulates an extended eight-week schedule, treatment of patients with refractory or relapsed bulky disease measuring >10 cm, and retreatment of patients who responded to rituximab previously. In 1998, the European Union approved rituximab (MabThera) to treat stage III/IV, follicular, chemotherapy-resistant, or relapsed NHL. Recently, the European Union also approved the use of rituximab in combination with standard chemotherapy for aggressive NHL. Many clinical trials have evaluated rituximab, alone or with other therapies, in indolent and aggressive NHL as well as other B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders. New studies are evaluating rituximab's role in first-line therapy, maintenance therapy, and stem-cell transplantation procedures. The use of rituximab against autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, immune thrombocytopenic purpura, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis, is also under investigation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma / drug therapy*
  • Rituximab


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