Objective: To assess the impact of immunosuppressive therapy with cyclophosphamide (CYC) and rituximab (RTX) on serum immunoglobulin (Ig) concentrations and B lymphocyte counts in patients with ANCA-associated vasculitides (AAVs).
Methods: Retrospective analysis of Ig concentrations and peripheral B cell counts in 55 AAV patients.
Results: CYC treatment resulted in a decrease in Ig levels (median; interquartile range IQR) from IgG 12.8 g/L (8.15-15.45) to 9.17 g/L (8.04-9.90) (p = 0.002), IgM 1.05 g/L (0.70-1.41) to 0.83 g/L (0.60-1.17) (p = 0.046) and IgA 2.58 g/L (1.71-3.48) to 1.58 g/L (1-31-2.39) (p = 0.056) at a median follow-up time of 4 months. IgG remained significantly below the initial value at 14.5 months and 30 months analyses. Subsequent RTX treatment in patients that had previously received CYC resulted in a further decline in Ig levels from pre RTX IgG 9.84 g/L (8.71-11.60) to 7.11 g/L (5.75-8.77; p = 0.007), from pre RTX IgM 0.84 g/L (0.63-1.18) to 0.35 g/L (0.23-0.48; p<0.001) and from pre RTX IgA 2.03 g/L (1.37-2.50) to IgA 1.62 g/L (IQR 0.84-2.43; p = 0.365) 14 months after RTX. Treatment with RTX induced a complete depletion of B cells in all patients. After a median observation time of 20 months median B lymphocyte counts remained severely suppressed (4 B-cells/µl, 1.25-9.5, p<0.001). Seven patients (21%) that had been treated with CYC followed by RTX were started on Ig replacement because of severe bronchopulmonary infections and serum IgG concentrations below 5 g/L.
Conclusions: In patients with AAVs, treatment with CYC leads to a decline in immunoglobulin concentrations. A subsequent RTX therapy aggravates the decline in serum immunoglobulin concentrations and results in a profoundly delayed B cell repopulation. Surveying patients with AAVs post CYC and RTX treatment for serum immunoglobulin concentrations and persisting hypogammaglobulinemia is warranted.