Objective: To identify the role of methotrexate (MTX) in the treatment of persistent or recurrent Takayasu arteritis that is refractory to treatment with glucocorticoids (GC) alone.
Methods: An open-label pilot study of weekly low-dose MTX+GC treatment was performed. Outcome was evaluated according to clinical characteristics, laboratory abnormalities, findings on routinely performed angiographic studies, and ability to withdraw GC and MTX therapy. Eighteen patients entered the study; 2 dropped out, and 16 were followed up for a mean period of 2.8 years (range 1.3-4.8 years).
Results: Weekly administration of MTX (mean stable dose of 17.1 mg) and GC resulted in remissions in 13 of 16 patients (81%). However, 7 patients (44%) had relapses as GC was tapered to or near discontinuation. Retreatment again led to remission, and 3 of 7 patients in this group have successfully stopped GC therapy. Of those patients who achieved remission, 8 (50%) have sustained remissions of 4-34 months (mean 18 months), and 4 of this group have not required GC or MTX therapy for 7-18 months (mean 11.3 months). Three patients experienced disease progression in spite of treatment.
Conclusion: About half of all Takayasu arteritis patients have chronic active disease for which GC therapy alone does not provide sustained remissions that allow withdrawal of treatment. Weekly low-dose MTX is an effective means of inducing remission and minimizing GC therapy and toxicity in most of these patients. Further long-term studies will be required to assess the durability of remission and the need for maintenance MTX therapy in this subset of Takayasu arteritis patients.