Objective: Treatment of large-vessel vasculitis (LVV) remains challenging. Patients usually respond to glucocorticoid (GC) therapy, but often relapse on tapering of the GC dose or after GC withdrawal. In addition, GCs are fraught with numerous adverse events. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy and safety of the anti-IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) antibody tocilizumab (TCZ) in patients with LVV.
Methods: Four patients with active LVV (two with GCA and two with Takayasu arteritis) received monthly TCZ infusions (8 mg/kg bodyweight) for 6 consecutive months. Two patients were treatment naïve, while two had relapsing disease. Disease activity and drug tolerability were assessed clinically and by laboratory tests at study entry and subsequently every month for 6 months of TCZ treatment, while an [(18)F]fluorodeoxyglucose PET (PET/CT) scan was performed before and after treatment. In addition, a semi-quantitative clinical evaluation was performed at baseline and at 3 and 6 months using the Indian Takayasu activity score and the Kerr indices. After TCZ, MTX was used as maintenance therapy.
Results: All patients treated with TCZ therapy had a satisfactory clinical and laboratory response, while PET/CT findings significantly improved in all cases. No serious adverse events were noted. Only one patient had a transient increase in liver enzymes.
Conclusions: In this small group of patients with LVV, treatment with TCZ was effective and well tolerated. Further, larger studies are required to confirm our findings.