Objective: To evaluate the effect of IL-6 blockade using tocilizumab in inducing remission of arterial large vessel vasculitides (LVV).
Methods: Five consecutive patients with giant-cell arteritis (GCA) and two with Takayasu's arteritis (TA) were treated by tocilizumab infusions (8 mg/kg). Tocilizumab was given every other week for the first month and once monthly thereafter. Clinical symptoms of disease activity, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP) level and glucocorticoid (GC) dosage necessary to maintain remission were prospectively assessed. MR angiography was performed to monitor local inflammation.
Results: Of the seven patients three were newly diagnosed and four showed GC resistance, i.e. GC could not be lowered to less than 7.5 mg/day. The mean follow-up time was 4.3 months (range 3-7 months). All patients achieved a rapid and complete clinical response and normalisation of the acute phase proteins. Remarkably, prednisone dosage could be reduced within 12 weeks to a mean of 2.5 mg/day (range 0-10 mg/day). No relapse and no drug-related side effects were noted.
Conclusion: Collectively the data suggest that IL-6 blockade using tocilizumab qualifies as a therapeutic option to induce rapid remission in large vessel vasculitides.