Rinsho Shinkeigaku (Clinical Neurology)

Case Report

A case of refractory generalized myasthenia gravis with anti-acetylcholine receptor antibodies treated with rituximab

Ryutaro Hayashi, M.D.1)2), Masayuki Tahara, M.D., Ph.D.1)2), Tomoko Oeda, M.D., Ph.D.1)2), Tetsuro Konishi, M.D., Ph.D.1)3) and Hideyuki Sawada, M.D., Ph.D.1)2)

1)Department of Neurology, Utano National Hospital
2)Clinical Research Institute, Utano National Hospital
3)Present Address: Gakusai Hospital

We report a case of a 57-year-old woman with thymoma-associated generalized myasthenia gravis (MG) showing severe bulbar and respiratory symptoms, moderate weakness of the neck muscles, and mild weakness of extremity muscles. Corticosteroid treatment with various types of immunosuppressive agents, such as cyclosporine, tacrolimus, and azathioprine, did not improve her symptoms. Plasma exchange transiently improved her symptoms, and she was required to undergo plasmapheresis every 4 weeks. At first, cyclophosphamide pulse therapy was administered, which improved her symptoms transiently. Thereafter, rituximab (RTX) was administered. Six months after RTX administration, respiratory distress and dysphagia improved gradually, and reduction in the dosage of corticosteroids from 30 mg/day to 10 mg/day did not result in symptom deterioration. Therefore, the interval between successive plasmapheresis treatments was increased from 4 to 9 weeks 19 months after the first RTX administration. During a 26-month period from the first administration of RTX, the number of CD20+ B cells in peripheral blood decreased and remained at 0% to 26% of that before RTX treatment. The titer of anti-acetylcholine receptor antibodies did not change during the first course of treatment (0.6 0.9 nmol/l). The clinical symptom worsened with the increase of the number of CD20+ B cells in peripheral blood in the 27 month after 1st RTX administration. Therefore, RTX was administered a second time, after which the patient's clinical symptoms again improved gradually. The titer of anti-acetylcholine receptor antibodies came to be stable with 0.5 0.7 nmol and low level during the 2nd course. Corticosteroids could be discontinued in the 16th month. The findings suggest that RTX can be one of the choices for pharmacological therapy in patients with intractable MG accompanied by the presence of anti-acetylcholine receptor antibodies.
Full Text of this Article in Japanese PDF (509K)

(CLINICA NEUROL, 55: 227|232, 2015)
key words: refractory myasthenia gravis, rituximab (RTX), plasmapheresis

(Received: 8-May-13)