Rinsho Shinkeigaku (Clinical Neurology)

Original Article

Trial of rituximab in three patients with neuromyelitis optica

Hisaji Imamura, M.D.1), Masami Tanaka, M.D.1), Naoyuki Kitagawa, M.D.1), Masayuki Tahara, M.D.1), Miki Oono, M.D.1), Keiko Tanaka, M.D.2) and Tetsuro Konishi, M.D.1)

1)MS Center, National Utano Hospital
2)Department of Neurology, Kanazawa Medical University

Patients with relapsing neuromyelitis optica (NMO) showing contiguous long spinal cord lesions extending over three vertebral segments on the MRI and with positive anti-aquaporin 4 antibodies in sera are usually treated with glucocorticoids or azathioprine. However, some NMO patients even after adequate treatments show relapses. Rituximab (anti-CD 20) therapy has recently been reported to inhibit relapses. We used rituximab to treat three NMO patients defined by the revised NMO criteria of Wingerchuk et al, with rituximab for 2 years and 3 months (mean) at an intervals of about nine months.
The annualized relapse rate for the 3 patients during the year before rituximab therapy was 4, 5, and 6, respectively, and this decreased to 3, 1, and 0 in the year after therapy. Case 1 showed three relapses after therapy: however, the symptoms and signs of each of the relapses were milder and the patient showed good responses to steroid pulse therapy. One year after therapy, relapses had disappeared in all cases (observation periods; 18 , 18, and 9 months, respectively).
After rituximab therapy, these NMO patients showed a decreased mean annualized relapse rate (from 5.0 to 0.6) and EDSS score (from 8.7 to 8.0) after rituximab therapy. No adverse effects were seen. We recommend rituximab therapy for NMO patients resistant to other immunosuppressive therapies such as oral glucocorticoid administration introduced after a severe relapse. However, during long term rituximab treatment, attention needs to be given to infections such as progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy.
Full Text of this Article in Japanese PDF (419K)

(CLINICA NEUROL, 49: 457|462, 2009)
key words: neuromyelitis optica, rituximab, multiple sclerosis, monoclonal antibody, anti-CD20 antibody

(Received: 30-Jan-09)