Vasculitis therapy refines vasculitis mechanistic classification

Autoimmun Rev. 2021 Jun;20(6):102829. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2021.102829. Epub 2021 Apr 16.


The primary vasculitides constitute a heterogeneous group of immune mediated diseases of incompletely understood pathogenesis currently classified by the size of blood vessels affected (Chapel Hill classification). In recent years, several drugs with well-characterized immunological targets have been tested in clinical trials in large vessel vasculitis and small vessel vasculitis. Such trials provide "reverse translational" or bedside to bench information about underlying pathogenic mechanisms. Therefore, the aim of this systematic literature review was to examine the evidence base for a more refined mechanistic immunological classification of vasculitis. A total of 40 studies (20 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 16 prospective studies, 1 retrospective cohort study and 3 case series) were included for full qualitative assessment. RCTs concerning biologic therapy for large vessel vasculitis mainly supports interleukin 6 receptor inhibition (tocilizumab). RCTs concerning biologic therapy for granulomatosis with polyangiitis and microscopic polyangiitis mainly support anti-CD20 treatment (rituximab) and complement inhibition with a small molecule C5a receptor antagonist (avacopan) is an emerging treatment option. The biologic treatment of eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis is centered around interleukin 5 inhibition (mepolizumab). Studies on tumor necrosis factor alpha inhibition (adalimumab, infliximab, and etanercept) showed negative results in giant cell arteritis but some effect in Takayasu arteritis. Taken together, clinical studies with cytokine and cell specific drugs are dissecting the heterogeneous immunopathogenic mechanisms of vasculitis and support a mechanistic immunological classification. Especially, cytokine antagonism is pointing towards immunological distinctions between eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis and granulomatosis with polyangiitis/microscopic polyangiitis and differences between giant cell arteritis and Takayasu arteritis.

Keywords: Abatacept; Adlimumab; Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis; Avacopan; Churg-Strauss; Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis; Etanercept; Giant cell arteritis; Granulomatosis with polyangiitis; Infliximab; Large vessel vasculitis; Mepolizumab; Microscopic polyangiitis; Rituximab; Secukinumab; Small vessel vasculitis; Takayasu arteritis; Temporal arteritis; Tocilizumab; Ustekinumab; Wegeners granulomatosis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Churg-Strauss Syndrome*
  • Etanercept
  • Giant Cell Arteritis*
  • Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis*
  • Humans
  • Microscopic Polyangiitis*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rituximab / therapeutic use
  • Takayasu Arteritis* / drug therapy


  • Rituximab
  • Etanercept