Objective: Rituximab is effective induction therapy in refractory or relapsing antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis (AAV). However, further relapse is common, and maintenance strategies are required. The aim of this study was to reduce relapse rates using a fixed-interval rituximab re-treatment protocol.
Methods: Retrospective, standardized collection of data from sequential patients receiving rituximab for refractory or relapsing AAV at a single center was studied. Group A patients (n = 28) received rituximab induction therapy (4 infusions of 375 mg/m(2) or 2 infusions 1 gm) and further rituximab at the time of subsequent relapse. Group B patients (n = 45) received routine rituximab re-treatment for 2 years: 2 doses of 1 gm each for remission induction, then 1 gm every 6 months (total of 6 gm). Group C patients (n = 19) comprised patients in group A who subsequently relapsed and began routine re-treatment for 2 years.
Results: Response (complete/partial remission) occurred in 26 of the 28 patients (93%) in group A, 43 of the 45 patients (96%) in group B, and 18 of the 19 patients (95%) in group C. At 2 years, relapses had occurred in 19 of 26 patients (73%) in group A, 5 of 43 (12%) in group B (P < 0.001), and 2 of 18 (11%) in group C (P < 0.001). At the last followup (median of 44 months), relapses had occurred in 85% of those in group A (22 of 26), 26% of those in group B (11 of 43; P < 0.001), and 56% of those in group C (10 of 18; P = 0.001). Glucocorticoid dosages were decreased and immunosuppression therapy was withdrawn in the majority of patients. Routine rituximab re-treatment was well tolerated, and no new safety issues were identified.
Conclusion: Two-year, fixed-interval rituximab re-treatment was associated with a reduction in relapse rates during the re-treatment period and a more prolonged period of remission during subsequent followup. In the absence of biomarkers that accurately predict relapse, routine rituximab re-treatment may be an effective strategy for remission maintenance in patients with refractory and relapsing AAV.
Copyright © 2012 by the American College of Rheumatology.