Objective: Oral administration of cartilage-derived type II collagen (CII) has been shown to ameliorate arthritis in animal models of joint inflammation, and preliminary studies have suggested that this novel therapy is clinically beneficial and safe in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The present study was undertaken to test the safety and efficacy of 4 different dosages of orally administered CII in patients with RA.
Methods: Two hundred seventy-four patients with active RA were enrolled at 6 different sites and randomized to receive placebo or 1 of 4 dosages (20, 100, 500, or 2,500 microg/day) of oral CII for 24 weeks. Efficacy parameters were assessed monthly. Cumulative response rates (percentage of patients meeting the criteria for response at any time during the study) were analyzed utilizing 3 sets of composite criteria: the Paulus criteria, the American College of Rheumatology criteria for improvement in RA, and a requirement for > or = 30% reduction in both swollen and tender joint counts.
Results: Eighty-three percent of patients completed 24 weeks of treatment. Numeric trends in favor of the 20 microg/day treatment group were seen with all 3 cumulative composite measures. However, a statistically significant increase (P = 0.035) in response rate for the 20 microg/day group versus placebo was detected using only the Paulus criteria. The presence of serum antibodies to CII at baseline was significantly associated with an increased likelihood of responding to treatment. No treatment-related adverse events were detected. The efficacy seen with the lowest dosage is consistent with the findings of animal studies and with known mechanisms of oral tolerance in which lower doses of orally administered autoantigens preferentially induce disease-suppressing regulatory cells.
Conclusion: Positive effects were observed with CII at the lowest dosage tested, and the presence of serum antibodies to CII at baseline may predict response to therapy. No side effects were associated with this novel therapeutic agent. Further controlled studies are required to assess the efficacy of this treatment approach.