The efficacy of novel B cell biologics as the future of SLE treatment: a review

Autoimmun Rev. 2014 Nov;13(11):1094-101. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2014.08.020. Epub 2014 Aug 20.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease with wide ranging multi-systemic effects. Current understanding centralises B cells in SLE pathogenesis with clinical features resulting from autoantibody formation, immune complex deposition, antigen presentation and cytokine activation. Existing standard of care therapies generates adverse side effects; secondary to corticosteroid use and untargeted immunosuppression. The inability to uphold remission and abolish the disease process, in addition to the increasing numbers of patients seen with refractory disease with these therapies, has provoked the development of novel B cell biologics targeting specific pathogenic pathways fundamental to the SLE disease process. Current evidence highlighting the efficacy of Rituximab, Ocrelizumab and Epratuzumab in inducing B cell depletion and achieving disease amelioration through specific B cell surface receptor antagonism is discussed. We review the efficacy of Atacicept, Briobacept and Belimumab in antagonising B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) and A proliferation inducing ligand (APRIL), two stimulatory cytokines crucial to B cell survival, growth and function. Two large multicentre randomised controlled trials, BLISS-52 and BLISS-76, have led to FDA approval of Belimumab. Following this breakthrough, other anti-BLyS therapies, Blisibimod and Tabalumab, are currently under Phase III evaluation. Similarly, murine models and Phase I/II trials have demonstrated significant efficacy of Rituximab, Epratuzumab, Briobacept and Atacicept as potential future therapies and we now eagerly await results from Phase III trials. Future research must compare the efficacy of different biologics amongst different patient subpopulations and SLE manifestations, in order to develop clinically and cost effective therapies.

Keywords: B cells; Biologics; Systemic lupus erythematosus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Cell Activating Factor / therapeutic use
  • B-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / therapy
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell / immunology


  • B-Cell Activating Factor
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell