[Rituximab therapy for severe pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus]
To analyze the safety and efficacy of anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody in treatment of severe pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus (PSLE).
The diagnosis of PSLE was made according to the criteria for the classification of systemic lupus erythematosus revised by the American College of Rheumatology in 1997. Severe cases with PSLE was selected by the following criteria: age ≤ 16 years, number of important organs involved > 1, SLEDAI score > 10 points and poor response to conventional immunosuppressive treatment. These patients received 2 doses of 375 mg/m(2) rituximab (RTX), 2 weeks apart. Clinical, laboratory findings and drug side effects were recorded at RTX initiation, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3, 6 and 12 months after infusion.
A total of 20 patients. Male to female ratio was 1:3, were enrolled. They were 5-16 years old. The course of disease was (3.0 ± 2.5) years (range: 1 month-7 years), patients were followed up for 12 - 36 months [median: (27.0 ± 7.8) months]. Delirium and cognitive disorders were significantly improved in 10 cases of lupus encephalopathy after 1 month. Lupus nephritis in children were eased slowly, 14/15 patients with lupus nephritis were improved after 2-3 months. Four cases of lupus pneumonia were significantly improved within 1 month. Decreased blood cells counts were relieved at 1 month in 16/18 cases. Cellular immune function was assessed 2 weeks after application of anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody; we found B-cell clearance in 19 patients (95%). B lymphocyte count of 18 patients (90%) was restored within one year. SLEDAI score was reduced obviously. Dose of corticosteroid ranged from (45.0 ± 4.7) mg/m(2) before drug use to (12.0 ± 2.7) mg/m(2) 12 months later (P < 0.001). After the drug use, 5 patients had pneumonia within 6 months; 2 cases who suffered from aspergillus pneumonia and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia respectively were severe. They accepted mechanical ventilation and anti-inflammatory support after being transferred to the intensive care unit, and their conditions improved at last. No death occurred. In 2 patients the disease recurred with B-cell recovery after 15 months and 18 months. Administration of another cycle of rituximab resulted in remission again in one case but not in the other.
Anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody is effective and safe in treatment of severe PSLE. But severe infections may occur in some cases. Focusing on prevention and early treatment can reduce the probability of adverse reactions.
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