Efficacy and Safety of Rituximab in Connective Tissue Disease related Interstitial Lung Disease

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Deirdre Brigid Fitzgerald
Fiachra Moloney
Maria Twomey
Oisin J O'Connell
Owen Cronin
Len Harty
Sinead Harney
Michael T Henry


Interstitial lung disease, Connective tissue disease, Rituximab


Pulmonary complications of connective tissue disease are being identified more frequently with the advent of more sophisticated radiological investigations. Limited previous studies have suggested Rituximab (RTX), a chimeric monoclonal antibody with activity against CD-20, may benefit connective tissue disease patients with pulmonary complications. We performed a retrospective analysis of the efficacy and safety of RTX in patients attending a tertiary referral centre.
Ten patients treated with RTX for pulmonary complications of CTD in our institution were identified. Baseline demographics, pre- and post-treatment investigations and adverse events were documented with an average follow up time-frame of 12.3 months (range: 3 – 27). Statistical analysis was performed using the Wilcoxan Signed-Rank test in SPSS.
There was a statistically significant improvement in pulmonary function, with a mean increase of 19% in DLCO (median DLCO (ml/min/mmHg) pre-treatment vs. post-treatment: 13.94 vs. 19.34, p=0.028) and a mean increase of 13% in FVC (median FVC (L) pre-treatment vs. post-treatment: 3.47 vs.3.6, p=0.28). For patients with pulmonary fibrosis (n=7), CT severity was improved on post-treatment scan, though this did not reach statistical significance. There was a reduction in the number of nodules seen on the follow-up scans of two patients without fibrosis. No patient had a severe adverse reaction to RTX.
Treatment with RTX resulted in an objective, measurable improvement in pulmonary function and/or radiological severity for the majority of patients included in the series. This was statistically significant despite the small numbers included. These results indicate a positive response to RTX with few complications of treatment.



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