Obinutuzumab induces superior B-cell cytotoxicity to rituximab in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus patient samples

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2017 Jul 1;56(7):1227-1237. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kex067.


Objective: A proportion of RA and SLE patients treated with standard doses of rituximab (RTX) display inefficient B cell deletion and poor clinical responses that can be augmented by delivering higher doses, indicating that standard-dose RTX is a sub-optimal therapy in these patients. This study aimed to investigate whether better responses could be achieved with mechanistically different anti-CD20 mAbs.

Methods: We compared RTX with obinutuzumab (OBZ), a new-generation, glycoengineered type II anti-CD20 mAb, in a series of in vitro assays measuring B cell cytotoxicity in RA and SLE patient samples.

Results: We found that OBZ was at least 2-fold more efficient than RTX at inducing B-cell cytotoxicity in in vitro whole blood assays. Dissecting this difference, we found that RTX elicited more potent complement-dependent cellular cytotoxicity than OBZ. In contrast, OBZ was more effective at evoking Fc gamma receptor-mediated effector mechanisms, including activation of NK cells and neutrophils, probably due to stronger interaction with Fc gamma receptors and the ability of OBZ to remain at the cell surface following CD20 engagement, whereas RTX became internalized. OBZ was also more efficient at inducing direct cell death. This was true for all CD19 + B cells as a whole and in naïve (IgD + CD27 - ) and switched (IgD - CD27 + ) memory B cells specifically, a higher frequency of which is associated with poor clinical response after RTX.

Conclusion: Taken together, these data provide a mechanistic basis for resistance to rituximab-induced B-cell depletion, and for considering obinutuzumab as an alternative B-cell depleting agent in RA and SLE.

Keywords: B cells; obinutuzumab; rheumatoid arthritis; rituximab; systemic lupus erythematosus.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / pharmacology*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / blood
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, IgG / drug effects
  • Receptors, IgG / metabolism
  • Rituximab / pharmacology*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Rituximab
  • obinutuzumab