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1.  Variability in Experts’ Opinions Regarding Risks and Treatment Choices in Patients with ANCA Associated Vasculitis 
There are insufficient toxicity data available to guide treatment decisions in patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV). The objective of this study was to obtain expert input related to available treatment options.
We performed a web-based survey of experts (defined as physicians whose practices focus on vasculitis and physicians engaged in research in vasculitis) regarding adverse events (AEs) associated with cyclophosphamide and/or rituximab, the two treatment options for remission-induction of severe AAV. Using scaled measures, experts rated i) the probability of 30 AEs associated with the treatments; ii) the importance of disclosing each AE, and reported iii) their treatment preferences using standardized scenarios.
Ratings of the probabilities of specific AEs associated with cyclophosphamide and rituximab varied significantly among the experts. The majority agreed that AEs related to fertility, infections, and serious infusion reactions were “extremely” or “very important” to disclose. Less than half of the experts surveyed endorsed disclosing the risks of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, hepatitis reactivation, or zoster. For patients with newly-diagnosed AAV, the majority of experts preferred IV cyclophosphamide for older adults and rituximab for younger women with newly-diagnosed AAV. For patients with recurrent disease who had been previously treated with cyclophosphamide, the majority of experts preferred rituximab, regardless of age or gender.
The variability noted in this study suggests that the information and treatment patients receive may differ depending on where they receive their care. This type of unwarranted variability could be reduced if data from long-term extension and observational studies generate more precise outcome estimates for treatment-related AEs in AAV.
PMCID: PMC3838999  PMID: 24263144
2.  Updating the OMERACT Filter: Core Areas as a basis for defining core outcome sets 
The Journal of rheumatology  2014;41(5):994-999.
The OMERACT Filter provides guidelines for the development and validation of outcome measures for use in clinical research. The ‘Truth’ section of the OMERACT Filter pre-supposes an explicit framework for identifying the relevant core outcomes that are universal to all studies of the effects of intervention effects. There is no published outline for instrument choice or development that is aimed at measuring outcome, was derived from broad consensus over its underlying philosophy, or includes a structured and documented critique. Therefore, a new proposal for defining core areas of measurement (“Filter 2.0 Core Areas of Measurement”) was presented at OMERACT 11 to explore areas of consensus and consider whether already endorsed core outcome sets fit in to this newly proposed framework.
Discussion groups critically reviewed the extent to which case studies of current OMERACT Working Groups complied with or negated the proposed framework, whether these observations had a more general application, and what issues remained to be resolved.
Although there was a broad acceptance of the framework in general, several important areas of construction, presentation and clarity of the framework were questioned. The discussion groups and subsequent feedback highlighted 20 such issues.
These issues will require resolution in order to reach consensus on accepting the proposed Filter 2.0 framework of Core Areas as the basis for the selection of Core Outcome Domains and hence appropriate Core Outcome Sets for clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC4217644  PMID: 24634204
3.  Illness Perceptions and Fatigue in Systemic Vasculitis 
Arthritis care & research  2013;65(11):1835-1843.
To compare illness perceptions among patients with different forms of vasculitis, identify risk factors for negative illness perceptions, and determine the association between illness perceptions and fatigue.
Participants were recruited from an online registry in vasculitis to complete the revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ-R). Mean scores on each IPQ-R dimension were compared across types of vasculitis. Cluster analysis and stepwise regression identified predictors of negative illness perception. Fatigue was measured using the general subscale of the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI). Patient-reported measures of disease activity and IPQ-R dimensions were assessed in relation to MFI scores using linear regression in sequential, additive models with model-fit comparisons.
692 participants with 9 forms of vasculitis completed the IPQ-R. For 6 out of 8 IPQ-R dimensions, there were no significant differences in mean scores between the different vasculitides. Scores in identity and cyclical dimensions were significantly higher in Behçet’s disease compared to other types of vasculitis (13.5 vs 10.7; 4.0 vs 3.2, p<0.05). Younger age (OR=1.04; 95%CI 1.02–1.06), depression (OR=4.94; 95%CI 2.90–8.41), active disease status (OR=2.05; 95%CI 1.27–3.29), and poor overall health (OR=3.92; 95%CI 0.88–17.56) were associated with negative illness perceptions. Sequential models demonstrated that IPQ-R dimensions explained an equivalent proportion of variability in fatigue scores compared to measures of disease activity.
Illness perceptions are similar across different types of vasculitis, and younger age is a risk factor for negative illness perceptions. Illness perceptions explain differences in fatigue scores beyond what can be explained by measures of disease activity.
PMCID: PMC3962511  PMID: 23861259
vasculitis; illness perceptions; fatigue
4.  Classification Criteria for Systemic Sclerosis: An ACR-EULAR Collaborative Initiative 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(11):2737-2747.
The 1980 classification criteria for systemic sclerosis (SSc) lack sensitivity in early SSc and limited cutaneous SSc. A joint ACR-EULAR committee was established to develop new classification criteria for SSc.
Using consensus methods, 23 candidate items were arranged in a multi-criteria additive point system with a threshold to classify cases as SSc. The classification system was reduced by clustering items, and simplifying weights. The system was tested by: a) determining specificity and sensitivity in SSc cases and controls with scleroderma-like disorders; b) validating against the combined view of a group of experts on a set of cases with or without SSc.
Skin thickening of the fingers extending proximal to the MCPs is sufficient to be classified as SSc, if that is not present, seven additive items apply with varying weights for each: skin thickening of the fingers, finger tip lesions, telangiectasia, abnormal nailfold capillaries, interstitial lung disease or pulmonary arterial hypertension, Raynaud's phenomenon, and SSc-related autoantibodies. Sensitivity and specificity in the validation sample were 0.91 and 0.92 for the new classification criteria and 0.75 and 0.72 for the 1980 ARA classification criteria. All selected cases were classified in accordance with consensus-based expert opinion. All cases classified as SSc by the 1980 ARA criteria were classified with the new criteria, and several additional cases were now considered to be SSc.
The ACR-EULAR classification criteria for SSc performed better than the 1980 ARA Criteria for SSc and should allow for more patients to be classified correctly as SSc.
PMCID: PMC3930146  PMID: 24122180
Systemic Sclerosis; Scleroderma; Classification Criteria; Conjoint Analysis; Multi Criteria Additive Point System; Validation; ACR-EULAR
5.  Variability of the impact of adverse events on physicians’ decision making 
Physicians frequently differ in their treatment recommendations. However, few studies have examined the reasons underlying these differences. The objective of this study was to examine whether physicians vary in the importance they attach to specific adverse events for two treatment options found in recent randomized controlled trials to have equivalent efficacy and overall toxicity.
A Max-Diff survey was administered to physicians attending a national scientific conference to quantify the influence of 23 specific adverse events on decision making related to two treatment options for vasculitis. This approach was chosen because it results in greater item discrimination compared to rating scales. We used Hierarchical Bayes modeling to generate the relative importance score for each adverse event and examined the association between physicians’ characteristics and the five most influential factors.
118 physicians completed the survey. The mean age (SD) was 48 years (10); 68% were male and 81% reported spending the majority of time in clinical practice. There was significant variability in the ratings of the relative importance of all adverse events, except those that were mild and easily reversible. We found a positive correlation between increasing physician age with ratings of sepsis (r = 0.29, p = 0.002) and opportunistic infection (r = 0.23, p = 0.016), and an inverse association between age with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (r = - 0.28, p = 0.003). Physician sex, work setting, location, and number of patients with vasculitis seen per year were not associated with the influence of specific adverse events on decision making.
Our findings demonstrate that physicians differ substantially in how they perceive the importance of specific adverse events which may help explain observed unwarranted variability in physicians’ recommendations in clinical practice. Further efforts are needed to ensure that the reasons underlying variability in physicians’ recommendations are transparent.
PMCID: PMC4236563  PMID: 25257678
Vasculitis; Decision-making; Drug toxicity; Cyclophosphamide; Rituximab; Best-worst scaling
6.  An open-label trial of abatacept (CTLA4-IG) in non-severe relapsing granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s) 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;73(7):1376-1379.
To determine the safety and efficacy of abatacept in non-severe relapsing granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s)(GPA).
An open-label trial of intravenous abatacept was conducted in 20 patients with non-severe relapsing GPA. Prednisone up to 30 mg daily was permitted within the first 2 months, and patients on methotrexate, azathioprine, or mycophenolate mofetil continued these agents. Patients remained on study until common closing or early termination.
Of the 20 patients, 18 (90%) had disease improvement, 16 (80%) achieved remission (BVAS/WG=0) at a median of 1.9 months, and 14 (70%) reached common closing. Six patients (30%) met criteria for early termination due to increased disease activity; 3 of 6 achieved remission and relapsed at a median of 8.6 months. The median duration of remission before common closing was 14.4 months, with the median duration of time on study for all patients being 12.3 months (range 2–35 months). Eleven of the 15 (73%) patients on prednisone reached 0 mg. Nine severe adverse events occurred in 7 patients, including 7 infections that were successfully treated.
In this study of patients with non-severe relapsing GPA, abatacept was well tolerated and was associated with a high frequency of disease remission and prednisone discontinuation.
PMCID: PMC4149903  PMID: 24323392
7.  Validity, Reliability, and Feasibility of Durometer Measurements of Scleroderma Skin Disease in a Multicenter Treatment Trial 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;59(5):10.1002/art.23564.
To determine the validity, reliability, and feasibility of durometer measurements of skin hardness as an outcome measure in clinical trials of scleroderma.
Skin hardness was measured during a multicenter treatment trial for scleroderma using handheld digital durometers with a continuous scale. Skin thickness was measured by modified Rodnan skin score (MRSS). Other outcome data collected included the Scleroderma Health Assessment Questionnaire. In a reliability exercise in advance of the trial, 9 investigators examined the same 5 scleroderma patients by MRSS and durometry.
Forty-three patients with early diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis were studied at 11 international centers (mean age 49 years [range 24–76], median disease duration 6.4 months [range 0.3–23], and median baseline MRSS 22 [range 11–38]). The reliability of durometer measurements was excellent, with high interobserver intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) (0.82–0.92), and each result was greater than the corresponding skin site ICCs for MRSS (0.54–0.85). Baseline durometer scores correlated well with MRSS (r = 0.69, P < 0.0001), patient self-assessments of skin disease (r = 0.69, P < 0.0001), and Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) disability scores (r = 0.34, P = 0.03). Change in durometer scores correlated with change in MRSS (r = 0.70, P < 0.0001), change in patient self-assessments of skin disease (r = 0.52, P = 0.003), and change in HAQ disability scores (r = 0.42, P = 0.017). The effect size was greater for durometry than for MRSS or patient self-assessment.
Durometer measurements of skin hardness in patients with scleroderma are reliable, simple, accurate, demonstrate good sensitivity to change compared with traditional skin scoring, and reflect patients' self-assessments of their disease. Durometer measurements are valid, objective, and scalable, and should be considered for use as a complementary outcome measure to skin scoring in clinical trials of scleroderma.
PMCID: PMC3887555  PMID: 18438905
8.  Meta-analysis in granulomatosis with polyangiitis reveals shared susceptibility loci with rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(10):3463-3471.
To examine the association of previously identified autoimmune disease susceptibility loci with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA, formerly known as Wegener’s granulomatosis), and determine whether genetic susceptibility profiles of other autoimmune diseases are associated with GPA
Genetic data from two cohorts were meta-analyzed. Genotypes for 168 previously identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with susceptibility to different autoimmune diseases were ascertained for a total of 880 GPA cases and 1969 controls of European descent. Single marker associations were identified using additive logistic regression models. Multi-SNP associations with GPA were assessed using genetic risk scores based on susceptibility loci for Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis. Adjustment for population substructure was performed in all analyses using ancestry informative markers and principal components analysis.
Genetic polymorphisms in CTLA4 were significantly associated with GPA in the single-marker meta-analysis (OR 0.79. 95% CI 0.70–0.89, p=9.8×10−5). A genetic risk score based on rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility markers was significantly associated with GPA (OR 1.05 per 1-unit increase in genetic risk score, 95% CI 1.02–1.08, p=5.1×10−5).
Rheumatoid arthritis and GPA may arise from a similar genetic predisposition. Aside from CTLA4, other loci previously found to be associated with common autoimmune diseases were not statistically associated with GPA in this study.
PMCID: PMC3425721  PMID: 22508400
genetics; vasculitis; granulomatosis with polyangiitis; rheumatoid arthritis; CTLA4
9.  Association of Vascular Physical Examination Findings and Arteriographic Lesions in Large Vessel Vasculitis 
The Journal of rheumatology  2011;39(2):303-309.
To assess the utility of the vascular physical examination to detect arteriographic lesions in patients with established large vessel vasculitis (LVV), including Takayasu’s arteritis (TAK) and giant cell arteritis (GCA).
In total, 100 patients (TAK = 68, GCA = 32) underwent standardized physical examination and angiography of the carotid, subclavian, and axillary arteries. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated for the association between findings on physical examination focusing on the vascular system (absent pulse, bruit, and blood pressure difference) and arteriographic lesions defined as stenosis, occlusion, or aneurysm.
We found 67% of patients had at least 1 abnormality on physical examination (74% TAK, 53% GCA). Arteriographic lesions were seen in 76% of patients (82% TAK, 63% GCA). Individual physical examination findings had poor sensitivity (range 14%–50%) and good-excellent specificity (range 71%–98%) to detect arteriographic lesions. Even when considering physical examination findings in combination, at least 30% of arteriographic lesions were missed. Specificity improved (range 88%–100%) if individual physical examination findings were compared to a broader region of vessels rather than specific anatomically correlated vessels and if ≥ 1 physical examination findings were combined.
In patients with established LVV, physical examination alone is worthwhile to detect arterial disease but does not always localize or reveal the full extent of arteriographic lesions. Abnormal vascular system findings on physical examination are highly associated with the presence of arterial lesions, but normal findings on physical examination do not exclude the possibility of arterial disease. Serial angiographic assessment is advisable to monitor arterial disease in patients with established LVV.
PMCID: PMC3729730  PMID: 22174204
10.  Distribution of arterial lesions in Takayasu’s arteritis and giant cell arteritis 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;71(8):1329-1334.
To compare patterns of arteriographic lesions of the aorta and primary branches in patients with Takayasu’s arteritis (TAK) and giant cell arteritis (GCA).
Patients were selected from two North American cohorts of TAK and GCA. The frequency of arteriographic lesions was calculated for 15 large arteries. Cluster analysis was used to derive patterns of arterial disease in TAK versus GCA and in patients categorised by age at disease onset. Using latent class analysis, computer derived classification models based upon patterns of arterial disease were compared with traditional classification.
Arteriographic lesions were identified in 145 patients with TAK and 62 patients with GCA. Cluster analysis demonstrated that arterial involvement was contiguous in the aorta and usually symmetric in paired branch vessels for TAK and GCA. There was significantly more left carotid (p=0.03) and mesenteric (p=0.02) artery disease in TAK and more left and right axillary (p<0.01) artery disease in GCA. Subclavian disease clustered asymmetrically in TAK and in patients ≤55 years at disease onset and clustered symmetrically in GCA and patients >55 years at disease onset. Computer derived classification models distinguished TAK from GCA in two subgroups, defining 26% and 18% of the study sample; however, 56% of patients were classified into a subgroup that did not strongly differentiate between TAK and GCA.
Strong similarities and subtle differences in the distribution of arterial disease were observed between TAK and GCA. These findings suggest that TAK and GCA may exist on a spectrum within the same disease.
PMCID: PMC3729734  PMID: 22328740
11.  A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Recombinant Human Relaxin in the Treatment of Systemic Sclerosis with Diffuse Scleroderma 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(4):1102-1111.
A phase II randomized controlled trial of recombinant human relaxin suggested that 25 ug/kg/day was safe and clinically effective in improving skin disease and functional disability in scleroderma. We report the results of a large randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial comparing placebo with recombinant human relaxin, 10 ug/kg of body weight per day and 25 ug/kg per day, given for 24 weeks in patients with stable, diffuse, moderate to severe scleroderma (SSc).
Men and women 18 to 70 years of age with diffuse SSc, disease duration ≤ 5 years since the onset of the first non-Raynaud sign or symptom, a baseline modified Rodnan skin score (MRSS) of 20 or greater, or at least 16 if truncal involvement was present. Recombinant human relaxin (10 or 25 ug/kg/day), or placebo was administered for 24 weeks as a continuous subcutaneous infusion and there was a follow-up safety visit at week 28.
The primary outcome measure, the MRSS, was similar between the 3 groups at baseline and at weeks 4, 12, and 24 (P=NS). Secondary outcomes such as functional disability were similar in all 3 groups and the forced vital capacity significantly decreased in the relaxin groups (p< 0.04). The discontinuation of relaxin (both doses) at week 24 led to statistically significant declines in creatinine clearance and serious renal adverse events (defined as either doubling of baseline serum creatinine, renal crisis, or grade 3 or 4 hypertension) in 7 patients who had received relaxin therapy but in none who had received placebo (p=0.04).
Recombinant relaxin was not significantly better than placebo in improving total skin score, pulmonary function, or functional disability in patients with diffuse SSc. In addition, relaxin was associated with serious renal adverse events, the majority of which occurred after stopping the infusion. If relaxin is used therapeutically for any conditions other than scleroderma, close monitoring of blood pressure and renal function must be performed.
PMCID: PMC3711466  PMID: 19333948
12.  Relationship Between Markers of Platelet Activation and Inflammation with Disease Activity in Wegener’s Granulomatosis 
The Journal of rheumatology  2011;38(6):1048-1054.
There remains a need for biomarkers to guide therapy in antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis. Our objective was to determine whether measures of platelet activation or inflammation are associated with disease activity in Wegener’s granulomatosis (WG).
Study subjects were participants in a clinical trial. Soluble CD40 ligand (sCD40L), C-reactive protein, interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-8, monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1), P-selectin, vascular endothelial growth factor, and proteinase 3 (PR3)-specific ANCA were measured by ELISA using plasma samples obtained at baseline (active disease), at remission, and prior to, during, and after first flares. Disease activity was assessed by the Birmingham Vasculitis Activity Score for WG (BVAS/WG). Association of biomarkers with disease activity was determined with conditional logistic and linear regression.
Over a mean followup of 27 months, 180 subjects underwent 2044 visits; markers were measured in 563 samples. Longitudinally, all markers other than IL-6 were associated with disease activity. The strongest associations for active disease at baseline versus remission were observed for sCD40L (OR 4.72, 95% CI 2.47–9.03), P-selectin (OR 6.26, 95% CI 2.78–14.10), PR3-ANCA (OR 9.41, 4.03–21.99), and inversely for MCP-1 (OR 0.36, 95% CI 0.22–0.57). BVAS/WG increased by 0.80 (95% CI 0.44–1.16), 0.83 (95% CI 0.42–1.25), and 0.81 (95% CI 0.48–1.15) per unit-increase in PR3-ANCA, sCD40L, and P-selectin, respectively; and decreased by 1.54 (95% CI 0.96–2.12) per unit-increase in MCP-1.
Cytokines arising from within the circulation, including those of platelet activation, correlate with disease activity in WG.
PMCID: PMC3653633  PMID: 21411717
13.  Development of Outcome Measures for Large-vessel Vasculitis for Use in Clinical Trials: Opportunities, Challenges, and Research Agenda 
The Journal of rheumatology  2011;38(7):1471-1479.
Giant cell (GCA) and Takayasu’s arteritis (TAK) are 2 forms of large-vessel vasculitis (LVV) that involve the aorta and its major branches. GCA has a predilection for the cranial branches, while TAK tends to affect the extracranial branches. Both disorders may also cause nonspecific constitutional symptoms. Although some clinical features are more common in one or the other disorder and the ages of initial presentation differ substantially, there is enough clinical and histopathologic overlap between these disorders that some investigators suggest GCA and TAK may be 2 processes within the spectrum of a single disease. There have been few randomized therapeutic trials completed in GCA, and none in TAK. The lack of therapeutic trials in LVV is only partially explained by the rarity of these diseases. It is likely that the lack of well validated outcome measures for LVV and uncertainties regarding trial design contribute to the paucity of trials for these diseases. An initiative to develop a core set of outcome measures for use in clinical trials of LVV was launched by the international OMERACT Vasculitis Working Group in 2009 and subsequently endorsed by the OMERACT community at the OMERACT 10 meeting. Aims of this initiative include: (1) to review the literature and existing data related to outcome assessments in LVV; (2) to obtain the opinion of experts and patients on disease content; and (3) to formulate a research agenda to facilitate a more data-based approach to outcomes development.
PMCID: PMC3653638  PMID: 21724719
14.  Plasma exchange and glucocorticoid dosing in the treatment of anti-neutrophil cytoplasm antibody associated vasculitis (PEXIVAS): protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2013;14:73.
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA, Wegener’s) and microscopic polyangiitis (MPA) are small vessel vasculitides collectively referred to as anti-neutrophil cytoplasm antibody-associated vasculitis (AAV). AAV is associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality due to uncontrolled disease and treatment toxicity. Small randomized trials suggest adjunctive plasma exchange may improve disease control, while observational evidence suggests that current oral glucocorticoid doses are associated with severe infections in patients with AAV. A randomized study of both plasma exchange and glucocorticoids is required to evaluate plasma exchange and oral glucocorticoid dosing in patients with AAV.
PEXIVAS is a two-by-two factorial randomized trial evaluating adjunctive plasma exchange and two oral glucocorticoid regimens in severe AAV. Five hundred patients are being randomized at centers across Europe, North America, Asia, and Australasia to receive plasma exchange or no plasma exchange, and to receive standard or reduced oral glucocorticoid dosing. All patients receive immunosuppression with either cyclophosphamide or rituximab. The primary outcome is the time to the composite of all-cause mortality and end-stage renal disease.
PEXIVAS is funded by the National Institute of Health Research (UK), the Food and Drug Administration (USA), the National Institutes of Health (USA), the Canadian Institute of Health Research (Canada), the National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia), and Assistance Publique (France). Additional in-kind supplies for plasma exchange are provided by industry partners (TerumoBCT, Gambro Australia, and Fresenius Australia).
This is the largest trial in AAV undertaken to date. PEXIVAS will inform the future standard of care for patients with severe AAV. The cooperation between investigators, funding agencies, and industry provides a model for conducting studies in rare diseases.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials: (ISRCTN07757494) and (NCT00987389)
PMCID: PMC3607855  PMID: 23497590
Factorial trial; Randomized controlled trial; Protocol; Vasculitis; Granulomatosis with polyangiitis; Microscopic polyangiitis; ANCA
15.  Items for developing revised classification criteria in systemic sclerosis: results of a consensus exercise with the ACR/EULAR working committee for classification criteria in systemic sclerosis 
Arthritis care & research  2012;64(3):351-357.
Classification criteria for systemic sclerosis (SSc) are being updated.
To select a set of items potentially useful for the classification of SSc using consensus procedures including the Delphi and nominal group techniques (NGT).
Items were identified through two independent consensus exercises performed by the Scleroderma Clinical Trials Consortium (SCTC) and the EULAR Scleroderma Trials and Research Group (EUSTAR). The first-round items from both exercises were collated and redundancies were removed leaving 168 items. A 3-round Delphi exercise was performed using a 1–9 scale (1=completely inappropriate and 9=completely appropriate) and a consensus meeting using NGT. During the last Delphi, the items were ranked on a 1–10 scale.
Round 1: 106 experts rated the 168 items. Those with a median score <4 were removed, resulting in a list of 102 items. Round 2: The items were again rated for appropriateness and subjected to a consensus meeting using NGT by European and North American SSc experts (n=16), resulting in 23 items. Round 3: SSc experts (n=26) then individually scored each of the 23 items in a last Delphi round, using an appropriateness score (1–9) and ranking their 10 most appropriate items for classification of SSc. Presence of skin thickening, SSc-specific autoantibodies, abnormal nailfold capillary pattern and Raynaud’s phenomenon ranked highest in the final list that also included items indicating internal organ involvement.
The Delphi exercise and NGT resulted in a set of 23 items for classification of SSc which will be assessed for their discriminative properties in a prospective study.
PMCID: PMC3288452  PMID: 22052558
Delphi technique; nominal group technique; systemic sclerosis; scleroderma; classification; classification criteria
16.  Assessment of Health Related Quality of Life as an Outcome Measure in Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (Wegener's) 
Arthritis care & research  2012;64(2):273-279.
Assess a generic measure of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) as an outcome measure in granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener's, GPA)
Subjects were participants in the Wegener’s Granulomatosis Etanercept Trial (WGET) or the Vasculitis Clinical Research Consortium Longitudinal Study (VCRC-LS). HRQOL was assessed with the Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36) that includes physical and mental component summary scores (PCS and MCS). Disease activity was assessed with the Birmingham Vasculitis Activity Score for Wegener’s Granulomatosis (BVAS/WG).
Data from 180 subjects in the WGET (median follow-up = 2.3 years, mean number of visits = 10) and 237 subjects in the VCRC-LS (median follow-up = 2.0 years, mean number of visits = 8) were analyzed. One unit increase in BVAS/WG corresponded to a 1.15 unit (95%CI: 1.02; 1.29) decrease in PCS and a 0.93 (95%CI: 0.78; 1.07) decrease in MCS in the WGET and by 1.16 for PCS (95%CI: 0.94; 1.39) and 0.79 for MCS (95%CI: 0.51; 1.39) in the VCRC-LS. In both arms of the WGET study, SF-36 measures improved rapidly during the first 6 weeks of treatment followed by gradual improvement among patients achieving sustained remission (0.5 improvement in PCS per three months), but worsened slightly (0.03 decrease in PCS per three months) among patients not achieving sustained remission (p = 0.005).
HRQOL, as measured by SF-36, is reduced among patients with GPA. SF-36 measures are modestly associated with other disease outcomes and discriminate between disease states of importance in GPA.
PMCID: PMC3250569  PMID: 21954229
vasculitis; health-related quality of life; outcome measures
17.  Value of ANCA measurements during remission to predict a relapse of ANCA-associated vasculitis—a meta-analysis 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2011;51(1):100-109.
Objective. The value of repeated ANCA measurements among patients with an established diagnosis of ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV) remains controversial. The aim of this study was to explore whether either of the two distinct patterns of ANCA values during remission, a rise in ANCA or persistently positive ANCA, predicted future relapse.
Methods. MEDLINE and EMBASE searches were performed. Studies with at least 10 subjects with AAV from which both sensitivity and specificity of a rise in ANCA and/or persistent ANCA for future disease relapse could be calculated were included. Likelihood ratios were calculated for each study and pooled to arrive at summary estimates. I2-values were calculated as a measure of heterogeneity and meta-regression was used to explore sources of heterogeneity.
Results. Nine articles on a rise in ANCA and nine articles on persistent ANCA were included. The summary estimates for positive likelihood ratio (LR+) and negative likelihood ratio (LR−) of a rise in ANCA during remission on subsequent relapse of disease were 2.84 (95% CI 1.65, 4.90) and 0.49 (95% CI 0.27, 0.87), respectively. The summary estimates for LR+ and LR− of persistent ANCA during remission for subsequent disease relapse were 1.97 (95% CI 1.43, 2.70) and 0.73 (95% CI 0.50, 1.06), respectively. There was substantial between-study heterogeneity, which was partially explained by the frequency of ANCA measurements.
Conclusion. Among patients with AAV, a rise in or persistence of ANCA during remission is only modestly predictive of future disease relapse. There is limited use to serial ANCA measurements during disease remission to guide treatment decisions for individual patients with AAV.
PMCID: PMC3276294  PMID: 22039267
vasculitis; anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies; biomarker
18.  Antineutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibodies, Autoimmune Neutropenia, and Vasculitis 
Reports of an association between antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) and autoimmune neutropenia have rarely included cases of proven vasculitis. A case of ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV) with recurrent neutropenia is described and relevant literature on the association between ANCA, neutropenia, and vasculitis is reviewed.
Longitudinal clinical assessments and laboratory findings are described in a patient with AAV and recurrent episodes of profound neutropenia from December 2008 – October 2010. A PubMed database search of the medical literature was performed for papers published from 1960 through October 2010 to identify all reported cases of ANCA and neutropenia.
A 49 year-old man developed recurrent neutropenia, periodic fevers, arthritis, biopsy-proven cutaneous vasculitis, sensorineural hearing loss, epididymitis, and positive tests for ANCA with specificity for antibodies to both proteinase 3 and myeloperoxidase. Antineutrophil membrane antibodies were detected during an acute neutropenic phase and were not detectable in a post-recovery sample, whereas ANCA titers did not seem to correlate with neutropenia. An association between ANCA and neutropenia has been reported in 74 cases from 24 studies in the context of drug/toxin exposure, underlying autoimmune disease, or chronic neutropenia without underlying autoimmune disease. In these cases, the presence of atypical ANCA patterns and other antibodies were common; however, vasculitis was uncommon and when it occurred was usually limited to the skin and in cases of underlying toxin exposure.
ANCA is associated with autoimmune neutropenia, but systemic vasculitis rarely occurs in association with ANCA and neutropenia. The interaction between neutrophils and ANCA may provide insight into understanding both autoimmune neutropenia and AAV.
PMCID: PMC3163109  PMID: 21507463
vasculitis; neutropenia; antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)
19.  Circulating Markers of Vascular Injury and Angiogenesis in ANCA-Associated Vasculitis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(12):3988-3997.
To identify biomarkers that distinguish between active ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV) and remission in a manner superior or complementary to established markers of systemic inflammation.
Markers of vascular injury and angiogenesis were measured before and after treatment in a large clinical trial in AAV. 163 subjects enrolled in the Rituximab in ANCA-Associated Vasculitis (RAVE) trial were studied. Serum levels of E-selectin, ICAM-3, MMP1, MMP3, MMP9, P-selectin, thrombomodulin, and VEGF were measured at study screening (time of active disease) and at month 6. ESR and CRP levels had been measured at the time of the clinical visit. The primary outcome was the difference in marker level between screening and month 6 among patients in remission (BVAS/WG score of 0) at month 6.
All subjects had severe active vasculitis (mean BVAS/WG score 8.6 +/− 3.2 SD) at screening. Among the 123 subjects clinically in remission at month 6, levels of all markers except E-selectin showed significant declines. MMP3 levels were also higher among the 23 subjects with active disease at month 6 than among the 123 subjects in remission. MMP3 levels correlated weakly with ESR and CRP.
Many markers of vascular injury and angiogenesis are elevated in severe active AAV and decline with treatment, but MMP3 appears to distinguish active AAV from remission better than the other markers studied. Further study of MMP3 is warranted to determine its clinical utility in combination with conventional markers of inflammation and ANCA titers.
PMCID: PMC3227746  PMID: 21953143
biomarkers; vasculitis; ANCA
20.  Oral Cyclophosphamide Therapy Diminishes Ovarian Reserve in Women with Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis 
Arthritis care & research  2011;63(12):1777-1781.
Standard treatment for severe granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA, previously Wegener’s granulomatosis) is daily oral cyclophosphamide (CYC), a cytotoxic agent associated with ovarian failure. In this study we assessed the rate of diminished ovarian reserve in women with GPA who received CYC versus methotrexate (MTX).
Patients in the Wegener’s Granulomatosis Etanercept Trial received either daily CYC or weekly MTX and were randomized to etanercept or placebo. For all women under 50, plasma samples taken at baseline or early in the study were evaluated against samples taken later in the study to compare levels of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), endocrine markers of remaining egg supply. Diminished ovarian reserve was defined as AMH<1.0ng/ml.
Of 42 women in this analysis (mean age 35), 24 had CYC exposure prior to enrollment and 28 received the drug during the study. At study entry, women with prior CYC exposure had significantly lower AMH, higher FSH, and a higher rate of early menstruation cessation. For women with normal baseline ovarian function, 6/8 who received CYC during the trial developed diminished ovarian reserve, compared to 0/4 who did not receive CYC (p<0.05). Changes in AMH correlated inversely with cumulative CYC dose (p=0.01), with a 0.74ng/ml decline in AMH for each 10g of CYC.
Daily oral CYC, even when administered for less than 6 months, causes diminished ovarian reserve, as indicated by low AMH levels. These data highlight the need for alternative treatments for GPA in women of childbearing age.
PMCID: PMC3306000  PMID: 22127969
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis; fertility; cyclophosphamide; anti-Müllerian hormone; ovarian function
21.  Solid Malignancies Among Patients with Wegener’s Granulomatosis Treated with Etanercept: Long-term Follow-up of a Multicenter Longitudinal Cohort 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(8):2495-2503.
An association between therapeutic inhibition of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and solid malignancies was observed during the Wegener’s Granulomatosis Etanercept Trial (WGET). The present study was conducted to determine the malignancy risk beyond the exposure to study therapy.
The occurrence and type of solid malignancies were ascertained using a standardized data form. Data collected included vital status, histologic reports, and therapeutic interventions. The SEER database was used to estimate a standardized incidence rate (SIR) for solid malignancies.
The median post-trial follow-up available for 153 patients (85% of the original cohort) was 43 months. Fifty percent of these patients had received etanercept. There were no differences in demographics between etanercept and placebo groups. Thirteen new solid malignancies were detected, 8 in the etanercept and 5 in the placebo group. The risk of solid malignancies in the etanercept group was increased compared to the general population (SIR=3.92; 95% CI 1.69–7.72), but not different from that of the placebo group (SIR=2.89; 95% CI 0.94–6.73, p=0.39). All solid malignancies occurred in patients exposed to cyclophosphamide. The overall duration of disease and a history of malignancy before trial enrollment were associated with the development of malignancy during post-trial follow-up.
The incidence of solid malignancy remained increased during long-term follow-up of the WGET cohort. However, this could not be attributed solely to etanercept exposure during the trial. Anti-TNF therapy with etanercept appears to further increase the risk of malignancy observed in patients with WG treated with cytotoxic therapy and should be avoided in such patients.
PMCID: PMC3149780  PMID: 21484770
Wegener’s granulomatosis; vasculitis; etanercept; malignancy; cancer
22.  Health related quality of life in patients with newly diagnosed anti-neutrophil cytoplasm antibody associated vasculitis 
Arthritis care & research  2011;63(7):1055-1061.
Anti-neutrophil cytoplasm antibody-associated vasculitis (AAV) can present with a broad spectrum of signs and symptoms. The relative effects of different manifestations on health related quality of life (HRQOL) is unknown.
We conducted an individual patient data meta-analysis of baseline Short Form 36 (SF-36) scores from four randomized controlled trials of patients with newly diagnosed AAV. We determined the associations between organ manifestations at trial entry and the SF-36 Physical Composite Score (PCS) and Mental Composite Score (MCS) using mixed effects models adjusted for demographic factors. Associations with each of the 8 domains of the SF-36 were further explored using multivariate multiple regression.
SF-36 data was available from 346 patients. Older age (−0.11 points/year; 95% Confidence Interval [CI] −0.21 to −0.012; p=0.029) and neurologic involvement (−5.84, p<0.001) at baseline were associated with lower Physical Composite Scores. Physical Function scores were the most affected and older age (−0.25 points per year, 95% Confidence Interval [CI] −0.38 to −0.11; p<0.001) scores and neurologic involvement (−8.48 points, 95% CI −12.90 to −4.06; p<0.001) had the largest effects. The MCS was negatively affected only by chest involvement (p=0.027) but this effect was not exerted in any particular domain.
HRQOL in patients with newly diagnosed AAV are complex and incompletely explained by their organ system manifestations.
PMCID: PMC3128179  PMID: 21452254
vasculitis; health related quality of life; short form 36; ANCA; Wegener’s Granulomatosis
23.  Plasma exchange for renal vasculitis and idiopathic rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis: a meta-analysis 
Plasma exchange may be effective adjunctive treatment for renal vasculitis. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized control trials of plasma exchange for renal vasculitis.
Study Design
Systematic review and meta-analysis of manuscripts identified from electronic databases, bibliographies, and studies identified by experts. Data was abstracted in parallel by two reviewers.
Setting & Population
Adults with idiopathic renal vasculitis or rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis
Selection Criteria for Studies
Randomized controlled trials that compared standard care with standard care plus adjuvant plasma exchange in adult patients with either renal vasculitis or idiopathic rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis.
Adjuvant plasma exchange
Composite of end-stage renal disease or death.
We identified 9 trials including 387 patients. In a fixed-effects model the pooled relative risk of end-stage renal disease or death was 0.80 for patients treated with adjunctive plasma exchange compared to standard care alone (95% confidence interval 0.65 to 0.99; p=0.04). No significant heterogeneity was detected (p=0.5; I2=0%). The effect of plasma exchange did not differ significantly across the range of baseline serum creatinine values (p=0.7) or number of plasma exchange treatments (p=0.8). The relative risk for end-stage renal disease was 0.64 (95% confidence interval 0.47 to 0.88; p=0.006) while the relative risk for death alone was 1.01 (95% confidence interval 0.71 to 1.4; p=0.9).
Although the primary result was statistically significant, there is insufficient statistical information to reliable determine if plasma exchange reduces the composite of end-stage renal disease or death.
Plasma exchange may reduce the composite endpoint of end-stage renal disease or death in renal vasculitis. Further trials are required given the limited data available.
PMCID: PMC3062650  PMID: 21194817
vasculitis; glomerulonephritis; plasma exchange; meta-analysis
24.  Circulating Angiopoietin-2 as a Biomarker in ANCA-Associated Vasculitis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30197.
The endothelial-specific Angiopoietin-Tie2 ligand-receptor system is an important regulator of endothelial activation. Binding of angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2) to Tie2 receptor renders the endothelial barrier responsive to pro-inflammatory cytokines. We previously showed that circulating Ang-2 correlated with disease severity in a small cohort of critically ill patients with anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated glomerulonephritis. The current study reassessed Ang-2 as a biomarker of disease activity and relapse in AAV. Circulating Ang-2 was measured in 162 patients with severe AAV (BVAS/WG≥3, with or without glomerulonephritis) in a clinical trial. Ang-2 levels during active AAV were compared to levels in the same patients during remission (BVAS/WG = 0). Levels in clinical subsets of AAV were compared, and association with future disease course was assessed. Ang-2 levels were elevated in severe disease (median 3.0 ng/ml, interquartile range 1.9–4.4) compared to healthy controls (1.2, 0.9–1.5). However, they did not reliably decline with successful treatment (median 2.6 ng/ml, interquartile range 1.9–3.8, median change −0.1). Ang-2 correlated weakly with BVAS/WG score (r = 0.17), moderately with markers of systemic inflammation (r = 0.25–0.41), and inversely with renal function (r = −0.36). Levels were higher in patients with glomerulonephritis, but levels adjusted for renal dysfunction were no different in patients with or without glomerulonephritis. Levels were higher in patients with newly diagnosed AAV and lower in patients in whom treatment had recently been started. Ang-2 levels during active disease did not predict response to treatment, and Ang-2 levels in remission did not predict time to flare. Thus, Ang-2 appears to have limited practical value in AAV as a biomarker of disease activity at time of measurement or for predicting future activity.
PMCID: PMC3261176  PMID: 22279570
25.  Alpha1-Antitrypsin Deficiency–Related Alleles Z and S and the Risk of Wegener’s Granulomatosis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(12):3760-3767.
Deficiency of α1-antitrypsin (α1AT) may be a determinant of susceptibility to Wegener’s granulomatosis (WG). Several previous, mainly small, case–control studies have shown that 5–27% of patients with WG carried the α1AT deficiency Z allele. It is not clear whether the S allele, the other major α1AT deficiency variant, is associated with WG. This study investigated the relationship of the α1AT deficiency Z and S alleles with the risk of developing WG in a large cohort.
We studied the distribution of the α1AT deficiency alleles Z and S in 433 unrelated Caucasian patients with WG and 421 ethnically matched controls. Genotyping was performed using an allele discrimination assay. Results were compared between cases and controls using exact statistical methods.
Among the patients with WG, the allele carriage frequencies of Z and S were 7.4% and 11.5%, respectively. The frequencies of the 6 possible genotypes differed in a statistically significant manner between cases and controls (P = 0.01). The general genetic 2-parameter codominant model provided the best fit to the data. Compared with the normal MM genotype, the odds ratio (OR) for MZ or MS genotypes was 1.47 (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.98–2.22), and the OR for ZZ, SS, or SZ genotypes was 14.58 (95% CI 2.33–∞). ORs of similar direction and magnitude were observed within the restricted cohorts that excluded cases and controls carrying ≥1 Z or ≥1 S allele.
Both Z and S alleles display associations with risk of WG in a codominant genetic pattern. These findings strengthen the evidence of a causal link between α1AT deficiency and susceptibility to WG.
PMCID: PMC3123032  PMID: 20827781

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