Rituximab in the treatment of systemic sclerosis-related interstitial lung disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2021 Feb 1;60(2):557-567. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keaa550.


Objectives: To assess the effect of rituximab (RTX) on the lung function parameters in SSc interstitial lung disease (SSc-ILD) patients.

Methods: PubMed and Embase were searched to identify studies on SSc-ILD treated with RTX, confined to a predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. A systematic review and meta-analysis were performed on the included studies on changes in forced vital capacity (FVC) and diffusion capacity of carbon monoxide (DLCO) from baseline to 6 and 12 months of follow-up.

Results: A total of 20 studies (2 randomized controlled trials, 6 prospective studies, 5 retrospective studies and 7 conference abstracts) were included (n = 575). RTX improved FVC from baseline by 4.49% (95% CI 0.25, 8.73) at 6 months and by 7.03% (95% CI 4.37, 9.7) at 12 months. Similarly, RTX improved DLCO by 3.47% (95% CI 0.99, 5.96) at 6 months and 4.08% (95% CI 1.51, 6.65) at 12 months. In the two studies comparing RTX with other immunosuppressants, improvement of FVC by 6 months in the RTX group was 1.03% (95% CI 0.11, 1.94) greater than controls. At the 12 month follow-up, RTX treatment was similar to controls in terms of both FVC and DLCO. Patients treated with RTX had a lower chance of developing infections compared with controls [odds ratio 0.256 (95% CI 0.104, 0.626), I2 = 0%, P = 0.47).

Conclusions: Treatment with RTX in SSc-ILD was associated with a significant improvement of both FVC and DLCO during the first year of treatment. RTX use was associated with lower infectious adverse events.

Keywords: anti-CD20; interstitial lung disease; meta-analysis; rituximab; scleroderma; systematic review; systemic sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / drug therapy*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / etiology
  • Rituximab / therapeutic use*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / complications*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / drug therapy


  • Immunologic Factors
  • Rituximab