B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy: Is Progress Being Made?

B-Cell Depletion Therapy: Insight From Researcher, Professor Jonathan CW Edwards

Red blood cells
Ed Reschke/Photolibrary/Getty Images

How Far Have We Come With B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy?

In November 2000, when news media first told the story of B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy for rheumatoid arthritis, the arthritis community took notice. Portrayed as "a cure" for rheumatoid arthritis, the news had doctors, patients, and scientists, caught in a swirl of excitement and hope. In actuality, the B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy story had been ongoing for two years prior to the November press coverage but had been largely ignored by the establishment.

It was the surge of media coverage which brought awareness to the research and has left many people anxious to hear more.

B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy: What Progress Has Been Made?

According to Professor Jonathan CW Edwards, the researcher who presented the paper on B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy for rheumatoid arthritis at the 2000 meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, twenty-three people have been treated thus far and most have had major relief. So far this has lasted about a year and although a few have not yet experienced a relapse, it is expected that in its current form, more than one course of the treatment will be necessary. Professor Jo Edwards explained, "We think there is a cycle underneath which may reactivate unless we completely clear out all rheumatoid factor plasma cells, which is technically impossible at present.

We are left instead with a treatment that seems extraordinarily effective in the medium term and so far has proved non-toxic."

B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy For Rheumatoid Arthritis

It has been difficult to get B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy for rheumatoid arthritis off the ground. It took 4 years to gather resources for a controlled trial.

B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy involves removal of B-lymphocytes by using a combination of the drugs:

The drugs are given via intravenous infusion. These drugs can be used off-label by any physician, but until more is known, treatment is likely to be limited to a few centers. The current protocol for B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy seems to work most effectively against true rheumatoid factor and may not be as good against other autoantibodies.

Professor Edwards commented, "There may be a number of people in odd corners of the world receiving the treatment and I would like to know how many. I am keen to have feedback from anybody with an autoimmune disease who has had B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy, whether for the autoimmune condition or for other coincident reasons." Updates and other details can be found at The Arthritis And Autoimmunity Homepage, the arthritis research and information website of Professor Jonathan Edwards, Dr. Jo Cambridge, Dr. Vikki Abrahams,and Dr. Maria Leandro at University College London.

Professor Edwards concluded that research on B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy must proceed carefully and systematically. Before this can become a viable treatment option, more funds are needed for more research.

Update On B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy

On 06/13/2005, the B Cell Therapeutics Group reports, B-cell depletion therapy is now in trials for a number of autoimmune conditions. In many of these conditions major improvement has been seen in a good proportion of cases in pilot studies, particularly in:

In rheumatoid arthritis, a benefit has now been confirmed by results from a formal randomized controlled trial, and further trials are expected.

Rituxan Approved For Rheumatoid Arthritis

On 3/01/2006, Rituxan (rituximab), the world's best-selling cancer drug, was FDA approved to be used in combination with the drug methotrexate to treat rheumatoid arthritis by reducing the signs and symptoms in adult patients who have moderately-to-severely active rheumatoid arthritis and have failed one or more anti-TNF blocker drugs e.g. Enbrel (etanercept), Remicade (infliximab), or Humira (adalimumab).

Related Resources - B-Cell Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy

Source: Update on B-Lymphocyte Depletion Therapy, B Cell Therapeutics Group, 06/13/2005

Continue Reading