Background: Rituximab has been widely used off-label as a second line treatment for children with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). However, its role in the management of pediatric ITP requires clarification. To understand and interpret the available evidence, we conducted a systematic review to assess the efficacy and safety of rituximab for children with ITP.
Methodology/principal findings: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, CBM, CNKI, abstract databases of American Society of Hematology, American Society of Clinical Oncology and Pediatric Academic Society. Clinical studies published in full text or abstract only in any language that met predefined inclusion criteria were eligible. Efficacy analysis was restricted to studies enrolling 5 or more patients. Safety was evaluated from all studies that reported data of toxicity. 14 studies (323 patients) were included for efficacy assessment in children with primary ITP. The pooled complete response (platelet count ≥ 100 × 10(9)/L) and response (platelet count ≥ 30 × 10(9)/L) rate after rituximab treatment were 39% (95% CI, 30% to 49%) and 68% (95%CI, 58% to 77%), respectively, with median response duration of 12.8 month. 4 studies (29 patients) were included for efficacy assessment in children with secondary ITP. 11 (64.7%) of 17 patients associated with Evans syndrome achieved response. All 6 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus associated ITP and all 6 patients with autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome associated ITP achieved response. 91 patients experienced 108 adverse events associated with rituximab, among that, 91 (84.3%) were mild to moderate, and no death was reported.
Conclusions/significance: Randomized controlled studies on effect of rituximab for children with ITP are urgently needed, although a series of uncontrolled studies found that rituximab resulted in a good platelet count response both in children with primary and children secondary ITP. Most adverse events associated with rituximab were mild to moderate, and no death was reported.