Imaging progression despite clinical remission in early rheumatoid arthritis patients after etanercept interruption

Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. Apr-Jun 2009;22(2):447-54. doi: 10.1177/039463200902200221.


The aim of this preliminary study is to evaluate clinical and imaging response in twenty patients with early Rheumatoid Arthritits (eRA) treated with Etanercept (Etn) + Methotrexate (Mtx) and to investigate whether clinical and MRI remission may be maintained after biological therapy interruption. Assessment included: radiography, Visser score and anti-CCP antibodies at baseline; disease activity score in 44 joints (DAS44), rheumatoid factor (RF), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of hands and wrists at baseline (T0), 12 (T1), and 24 months (T2). MRI was scored for synovitis, bone oedema and erosions (OMERACT study); patients who reached clinical and imaging remission at T1 were considered eligible for interrupting Etn. At T1 8/20 (40 percent) patients showed a total remission, DAS44 from 5 (T0) to 1.4 (T1); p<0.02, whereas the other 12/20 (60 percent) showed an improvement, without complete remission, DAS44 from 4.8 (T0) to 2.8 (T1); p<0.05. Etn was therefore interrupted in the first group of patients (group A), whereas it was continued in the other group (group B). At T2, group A maintained clinical remission and group B showed further not significant DAS44 reduction from T1. At T1, a significant reduction in synovitis, bone oedema and total score (p<0.01) was observed both in group A and in group B. At T2, group A showed an increase in all the MRI scores that was significant for the synovitis and total score, whereas group B exhibited a further not significant reduction. This preliminary study reports an excellent clinical and imaging response in eRA patients treated with Etn with total remission in 40 percent of them after a 1-year therapy period. However, it indicates that joint damage may progress, despite a sustained clinical remission, after Etn suspension.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antirheumatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • Arthrography
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Edema / drug therapy
  • Edema / pathology
  • Etanercept
  • Female
  • Hand Joints / drug effects*
  • Hand Joints / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / administration & dosage*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / administration & dosage
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / administration & dosage*
  • Remission Induction
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Synovitis / drug therapy
  • Synovitis / pathology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Etanercept
  • Methotrexate