Efficacy and Safety of Subcutaneous Belimumab in Anti-Double-Stranded DNA-Positive, Hypocomplementemic Patients With Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Arthritis Rheumatol. 2018 Aug;70(8):1256-1264. doi: 10.1002/art.40511. Epub 2018 Jun 15.


Objective: To investigate the efficacy and safety of belimumab, a human immunoglobulin monoclonal antibody against B lymphocyte stimulator, in a subset of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) who were hypocomplementemic (C3 <90 mg/dl and/or C4 <10 mg/dl) and anti-double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) positive (≥30 IU/ml) at baseline.

Methods: In this phase III, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (BEL112341; ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01484496), patients with moderate to severe SLE (Safety of Estrogens in Lupus Erythematosus National Assessment version of the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index [SELENA-SLEDAI] score ≥8) were randomized (2:1) to receive weekly subcutaneous (SC) belimumab 200 mg or placebo, plus standard SLE therapy, for 52 weeks. The primary end point was SLE Responder Index 4 (SRI-4) response rate at week 52. Secondary end points were time to severe flare and reduction in corticosteroid dose (weeks 40-52). Safety was assessed throughout.

Results: Of the 836 patients in the intent-to-treat (ITT) population, 356 were hypocomplementemic and anti-dsDNA positive at baseline (108 in the placebo group and 248 in the SC belimumab 200 mg group). Compared with placebo, the belimumab group contained more SRI-4 responders (47.2% versus 64.6%; P = 0.0014), had a lower incidence of severe flare according to the SELENA-SLEDAI flare index (31.5% versus 14.1%), and had a greater percentage of patients who reduced corticosteroid dosage by ≥25% to ≤7.5 mg/day during weeks 40-52 (11.4% versus 20.7%; P = 0.0844). Adverse events (AEs) were similar between treatment groups.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate that in hypocomplementemic, anti-dsDNA-positive SLE patients, weekly SC belimumab 200 mg significantly improves SRI-4 response, decreases severe flare incidence, and reduces corticosteroid use versus placebo; a trend toward greater benefit compared with the overall ITT population was observed. AEs were consistent with the known safety profile of belimumab.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood*
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / administration & dosage*
  • Complement C3 / deficiency*
  • DNA / immunology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Male
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Complement C3
  • belimumab
  • DNA

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01484496