Objective: To assess the effects of the B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS)-specific inhibitor belimumab on immunologic biomarkers, including B cell and T cell populations, and maintenance of antibody titers to prior vaccines in autoantibody-positive systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients.
Methods: Pooled data from 2 phase III trials, the Study of Belimumab in Subjects with SLE 52-week (BLISS-52) and 76-week (BLISS-76) trials, comparing belimumab 1 mg/kg or 10 mg/kg versus placebo (plus standard SLE therapy for each group) were analyzed for changes in autoantibody, immunoglobulin, and complement levels. BLISS-76 patients were also analyzed for changes in B cell and T cell populations and effects on prior vaccine-induced antibody levels.
Results: Belimumab-treated patients experienced significant sustained reductions in IgG and autoantibodies and improvement in C3/C4 levels, resulting in greater positive-to-negative conversion rates for IgG anti-double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA), anti-Sm, anticardiolipin, and anti-ribosomal P autoantibodies and normalization of hypergammaglobulinemia and low C3/C4 levels. Belimumab-treated patients experienced significant decreases in the numbers of naive and activated B cells, as well as plasma cells, whereas memory B cells and T cell populations did not decrease. Belimumab did not substantially affect preexisting antipneumococcal or anti-tetanus toxoid antibody levels. Post hoc analysis showed greater reductions in SLE disease activity and the risk of severe flares in patients treated with belimumab 10 mg/kg (P≤0.01) who were anti-dsDNA positive and had low C3/C4 levels at baseline. Normalization of the C3 or anti-dsDNA level by 8 weeks, irrespective of therapy, was predictive of a reduced risk of severe flare over 52 weeks.
Conclusion: Belimumab appears to promote normalization of serologic activity and reduce BLyS-dependent B cell subsets in serologically and clinically active SLE. Greater serologic activity may predict a better treatment response to belimumab.
Copyright © 2012 by the American College of Rheumatology.