January 23, 2018 |
New Vasculitis Therapy as Effective as Standard Care
August 12, 2013  | 

Bethesda, MD - Patients with severe vasculitis, or inflammation of the blood vessels, get the same benefits from just 4 doses of the drug rituximab over a month as from the standard daily therapy for 18 months, a new study reports.

Severe forms of vasculitis can be caused by the rare autoimmune diseases microscopic polyangiitis and granulomatosis with polyangiitis. People with these conditions produce harmful anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies, or ANCAs that attack healthy neutrophils. Resulting inflammation in small- to medium-sized blood vessels can cause severe organ damage and sometimes death.

The current standard of care for ANCA-related vasculitis requires daily doses of the harsh immunosuppressant drug cyclophosphamide for 3 to 6 months. Daily doses of another immunosuppressant, azathioprine, then follow for a year or more. This standard therapy usually clears the vasculitis, but relapse is common. In addition, this treatment suppresses the immune system in a non-specific way and has potentially severe side effects. In contrast, the drug rituximab is specifically targeted to deplete the type of immune cells thought to produce ANCA.

A team of international researchers tested to see how rituximab compares to the standard treatment for ANCA-related vasculitis. Funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the team studied 197 vasculitis patients. Led by Dr. Ulrich Specks of the Mayo Clinic and Dr. John Stone of Massachusetts General Hospital, the scientists divided patients into 2 groups. One received 4 weekly infusions of rituximab. The other received the standard therapy. All participants received steroid treatment. Those who went into remission stopped receiving steroids after 6 months. Continue>

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