Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Two-year results of an open pilot study of a 2-treatment course with rituximab in patients with early systemic sclerosis with diffuse skin involvement.

OBJECTIVE: To study safety and potential efficacy of a 2-treatment course (month 0/6) with rituximab (RTX) in early diffuse systemic sclerosis (dcSSc).

METHODS: Two years' followup (open-label study) was done of 8 patients with early dcSSc. Patients received an infusion of 1000 mg RTX 2 times at months 0 and 6, with 100 mg methylprednisolone. Clinical measurements, Disease Activity Score, functional status, and CD19+ peripheral blood count were performed at months 0, 3, 6, 12, 15, 18, and 24 and histopathological evaluation of the skin at months 0, 3, 12, and 24.

RESULTS: There was a clinically significant change in skin score, with a mean Modified Rodnan skin score of 24.8 at baseline (SD 3.4) and 13.6 at Month 24 [SD 5.6; mixed models analyses (MMA) p < 0.0001] and a significant decrease in Disease Activity Score (DAS), with a median of 4.5 at baseline (range 1.5-7.5) and 0.5 at Month 24 (range 0.0-5.5; MMA p < 0.0001). Indices of internal organ involvement remained stable throughout the study. RTX induced effective B cell depletion at baseline and Month 6 (< 5 CD19+ cells/μl blood). The blindly assessed hyalinized collagen score changed significantly over time (MMA p = 0.009), with a mean of 69.3 at baseline (SD 22.8) and 33.1 at 24 months (SD 27.0). Five serious adverse events were considered unrelated to the RTX treatment.

CONCLUSION: A 2-treatment course (months 0/6) with RTX appears to be well tolerated and may have potential efficacy for skin disease and stabilization of internal organ status in early dcSSc. Clinical Trials Registration NCT00379431.

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