CD5+ B cells have been conceptualized as a possible surrogate for Breg cells. The aim of the present study was to determine the utility of CD5+ B cells as biomarkers in antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody–associated vasculitis (AAV).
The absolute and relative numbers (percentages) of CD5+ B cells (explanatory variables) were measured longitudinally during 18 months in 197 patients randomized to receive either rituximab (RTX) or cyclophosphamide (CYC) followed by azathioprine (AZA) for the treatment of AAV (Rituximab in ANCA-Associated Vasculitis [RAVE] trial). Outcome variables included disease activity (status of active disease versus complete remission), responsiveness to induction therapy, disease relapse, disease severity, and, in RTX-treated patients, relapse-free survival according to the percentage of CD5+ B cells detected upon B cell repopulation.
CD5+ B cell numbers were comparable between the treatment groups at baseline. After an initial decline, absolute CD5+ B cell numbers progressively increased in patients in the RTX treatment arm, but remained low in CYC/AZA-treated patients. In both groups, the percentage of CD5+ B cells increased during remission induction and slowly declined thereafter. During relapse, the percentage of CD5+ B cells correlated inversely with disease activity in RTX-treated patients, but not in patients who received CYC/AZA. No significant association was observed between the numbers of CD5+ B cells and induction treatment failure or disease severity. The dynamics of the CD5+ B cell compartment did not anticipate disease relapse. Following B cell repopulation, the percentage of CD5+ B cells was not predictive of time to flare in RTX-treated patients.
The percentage of peripheral CD5+ B cells might reflect disease activity in RTX-treated patients. However, sole staining for CD5 as a putative surrogate marker for Breg cells did not identify a subpopulation of B cells with clear potential for meaningful clinical use. Adequate phenotyping of Breg cells is required to further explore the value of these cells as biomarkers in AAV.
Weight gain is a side effect of glucocorticoid (GC) use, but the natural history and health implications of changes in weight that occur during the treatment of inflammatory disease are not understood.
We evaluated data from the Wegener's Granulomatosis Etanercept Trial. Patients were categorized according to clinical outcome at 1 year: remission (no disease flares), single flare, or multiple flares. Risk factors for gaining ≥10 kg were examined in multivariate models.
Weights at baseline and 1 year were available for 157 (93%) of the 168 patients analyzed. During year 1, the mean cumulative prednisone dosage in the multiple flares subgroup was 7.9 gm, compared with 6.0 gm and 3.9 gm in the single flare and remission subgroups, respectively (P < 0.001). Patients in these subgroups gained an average of 2.6 kg, 4.1 kg, and 5.8 kg, respectively (P = 0.005). Weight gain did not correlate with cumulative GC dose (R = 0.10, P = 0.25). Thirty-five patients (22.3%) gained and maintained ≥10 kg in the first year. New diagnosis of Wegener's granulomatosis at baseline was an independent predictor of gaining ≥10 kg at 1 year (odds ratio 19.7, 95% confidence interval 2.4–162.6, P = 0.006). Among the 78 patients in the remission subgroup, 40 sustained remissions through the 2-year time point. For these 40 patients, the mean weight gained at year 1 did not regress by the end of year 2, despite the absence of continued GC use.
Disease control was associated with lower cumulative GC doses but greater weight gain. More than one-fifth of patients gained >10 kg in the first year of treatment. The quantity of weight gained by patients during treatment has potential future health implications.
Glomerulonephritis (GN) is common in antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV), but tools for early detection of renal involvement are imperfect. We investigated 4 urinary proteins as markers of active renal AAV: alpha-1 acid glycoprotein (AGP), kidney injury molecule-1 (KIM-1), monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), and neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL).
Patients with active renal AAV (n = 20), active nonrenal AAV (n = 16), and AAV in longterm remission (n = 14) were identified within a longitudinal cohort. Urinary biomarker concentrations (by ELISA) were normalized for urine creatinine. Marker levels during active AAV were compared to baseline remission levels (from 1–4 visits) for each patient. Areas under receiver-operating characteristic curves (AUC), sensitivities, specificities, and likelihood ratios (LR) comparing disease states were calculated.
Baseline biomarker levels varied among patients. All 4 markers increased during renal flares (p < 0.05). MCP-1 discriminated best between active renal disease and remission: a 1.3-fold increase in MCP-1 had 94% sensitivity and 89% specificity for active renal disease (AUC = 0.93, positive LR 8.5, negative LR 0.07). Increased MCP-1 also characterized 50% of apparently nonrenal flares. Change in AGP, KIM-1, or NGAL showed more modest ability to distinguish active renal disease from remission (AUC 0.71–0.75). Hematuria was noted in 83% of active renal episodes, but also 43% of nonrenal flares and 25% of remission samples.
Either urinary MCP-1 is not specific for GN in AAV, or it identifies early GN not detected by standard assessment and thus has potential to improve care. A followup study with kidney biopsy as the gold standard is needed.
Vasculitis; Biomarkers; Glomerulonephritis; Wegener Granulomatosis; Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1
To identify genetic determinants of granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s) (GPA).
We carried out a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 492 GPA cases and 1,506 healthy controls (white subjects of European descent), followed by replication analysis of the most strongly associated signals in an independent cohort of 528 GPA cases and 1,228 controls.
Genome-wide significant associations were identified in 32 single-nucleotide polymorphic (SNP) markers across the HLA region, the majority of which were located in the HLA–DPB1 and HLA–DPA1 genes encoding the class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) DPβ chain 1 and DPα chain 1 proteins, respectively. Peak association signals in these 2 genes, emanating from SNPs rs9277554 (for DPβ chain 1) and rs9277341 (DPα chain 1) were strongly replicated in an independent cohort (in the combined analysis of the initial cohort and the replication cohort, P = 1.92 × 10−50 and 2.18 × 10−39, respectively). Imputation of classic HLA alleles and conditional analyses revealed that the SNP association signal was fully accounted for by the classic HLA–DPB1*04 allele. An independent single SNP, rs26595, near SEMA6A (the gene for semaphorin 6A) on chromosome 5, was also associated with GPA, reaching genome-wide significance in a combined analysis of the GWAS and replication cohorts (P = 2.09 × 10−8).
We identified the SEMA6A and HLA–DP loci as significant contributors to risk for GPA, with the HLA–DPB1*04 allele almost completely accounting for the MHC association. These two associations confirm the critical role of immunogenetic factors in the development of GPA.
Previous studies suggest a role for eotaxin-3, TARC/CCL17 and IgG4 in newly- diagnosed patients with eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA, Churg-Strauss) with highly active disease. The role of these biomarkers in relapsing disease is unclear.
Serum levels of TARC/CCL17, eotaxin-3, IgG4, and IgG4/IgG ratio were determined in serum samples from a longitudinal cohort of patients with EGPA (105 visits of 25 patients). Epidemiological, clinical and laboratory data were available for all visits.
At the first visit, 80% of patients were using glucocorticoids and 68% additional immunosuppressive drugs. Disease flares were seen at 18 visits. The median BVAS and BVAS/WG scores at time of relapse were 4 and 2, respectively. None of the biomarkers tested were useful to discriminate between active disease and remission. Patients treated with prednisone had lower eotaxin-3 and eosinophil levels compared to patients not taking glucocorticoids irrespective of disease activity. Use of immunosuppressive agents was not associated with biomarker levels.
Serum levels of TARC/CCL17, eotaxin-3, IgG4, and IgG4/IgG ratio do not clearly differentiate active and inactive disease in established EGPA. Defining biomarkers in EGPA remains a challenge especially during times of glucocorticoid use.
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.
Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV) is a common cause of rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis resulting in end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The optimal timing of kidney transplantation (KTX) for ESRD as a result of AAV and the risk of AAV relapse after KTX are not well defined. We report our experience with AAV patients who underwent KTX at our institutions between 1996 and 2010. Median follow-up was 64 months.
Retrospective multicenter cohort study.
Eighty-five patients (45 men/40 women; mean age 49 years) received a KTX for ESRD secondary to microscopic polyangiitis (n=43) or Wegener’s granulomatosis (n=42). Twenty-four patients underwent preemptive KTX and 69 received a living-donor KTX. All patients were in remission at the time of KTX. Fifty-eight patients received induction therapy. In 64 patients, maintenance immunosuppression was with prednisone, mycophenolate mofetil, and tacrolimus. At the time of KTX, 29 patients were ANCA-positive. The vasculitis relapse rate was 0.02 per patient-years and was not influenced by disease category, ANCA subtype, or remission duration before KTX. There were 23 rejection episodes in 13 patients with seven graft losses. Median serum creatinine at 1 year was 1.3 mg/dL in 75 patients with more than 1 year follow-up and 1.4 mg/dL at last follow-up. The graft and patient survival rates were 100% at 1 year, 97.9% and 93.4% at 5 years, and 79.0% and 67.4% at 10 years, respectively.
KTX is a safe and an effective option for treating ESRD secondary to AAV. Relapses are rare with current immunosuppression.
ANCA vasculitis; Kidney transplantation; Immunosuppression; Outcomes
Prior to the 1970s, severe cases of antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody associated vasculitis (AAV) were thought to be invariably fatal. However, the use of cyclophosphamide-based treatment regimens fundamentally altered disease outcomes, transforming AAV into a manageable, chronic illness. Despite the tremendous success of cyclophosphamide in the treatment of AAV, there remained a need for alternative therapies, due to high rates of treatment failures and significant toxicities. In recent years, with the introduction of targeted biologic response modifiers into clinical practice, many have hoped that the treatment options for AAV could be expanded. Rituximab, a chimeric monoclonal antibody directed against the B-lymphocyte protein CD20, has been the most successful biologic response modifier to be used in AAV. Following the first report of its use in AAV in 2001, experience with rituximab for treatment of AAV has rapidly expanded. Rituximab, in combination with glucocorticosteroids, is now well established as a safe and effective alternative to cyclophosphamide for remission induction for severe manifestations of granulomatosis with polyangiitis and microscopic polyangiitis. In addition, initial experiences with rituximab for remission maintenance in these diseases have been favorable, as have experiences for remission induction in eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis.
antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody; antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody associated vasculitis; eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Churg–Strauss syndrome); granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s granulomatosis); microscopic polyangiitis; rituximab; vasculitis
Pulmonary vasculitis; diffuse alveolar hemorrhage; ANCA-associated vasculitis; granulomatosis with polyangiitis; microscopic polyangiitis; eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis
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.
genetics; vasculitis; granulomatosis with polyangiitis; rheumatoid arthritis; CTLA4
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.
VASCULITIS; BIOMARKERS; DISEASE ACTIVITY; WEGENER’S GRANULOMATOSIS
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.
vasculitis; health-related quality of life; outcome measures
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.
biomarkers; vasculitis; ANCA
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.
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis; fertility; cyclophosphamide; anti-Müllerian hormone; ovarian function
Antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies (ANCA) associated vasculitis (AAV) are a group of systemic vasculitis characterized by inflammation and necrosis of blood vessel walls. Genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors contribute to the etiology and pathogenesis of AAV. Based on currently available clinical and experimental evidence, it is reasonable to conceptualize that in predisposed patients, different triggers can lead to the production of autoantibodies (ANCA) that in the context of an inflammatory environment can cause tissue inflammation and vascular injury. Several different pathways and mechanisms in the pathogenesis of AAV are described in this contemporary review.
ANCA; ANCA-associated vasculitis; Granulomatosis with polyangiitis; Microscopic polyangiitis; Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis; Pathogenesis; Etiology
Introduction. Churg–Strauss syndrome (CSS) is a small vessel systemic vasculitis associated with asthma and eosinophilia that causes glomerulonephritis (GN) in ∼25% of patients. Rituximab (RTX) is a chimeric anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody that depletes B cells and is effective in numerous autoimmune diseases including antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis. We aim to evaluate the safety and efficacy of RTX in inducing remission of renal disease activity in patients with CSS.
Methods. We conducted a single-center, open-label pilot study using RTX (375 mg/m2/week × 4) for induction of remission in CSS patients with renal involvement [defined as having >25% dysmorphic red cells, red blood cell casts or pauci-immune GN on biopsy]. Written informed consent was obtained from all individuals. Patients were eligible if they were untreated, had failed glucocorticoid therapy or had failed glucocorticoid dose reductions because of disease relapses. The primary outcome was remission of renal disease activity defined as stability or improvement of creatinine clearance, absence of active urinary sediment and reduction of the glucocorticoid dose to <50% of the average dose received over 3 months before enrollment or <10 mg/day (whichever is smaller) at 6 months. Patients were followed up for 1 year.
Results. Only three patients (two females; ages 54, 55 and 65) were enrolled. All patients had positive myeloperoxidase-ANCA and renal involvement. Two patients had biopsy-proven pauci-immune crescentic GN. All achieved the primary end point of renal remission within the first 3 months and remained in renal remission during the year following RTX treatment. One patient experienced a nonrenal relapse (eye and joint involvement) at 6 months coinciding with the reconstitution of CD19+ cells and eosinophilia. He was retreated with RTX and achieved remission within 6 weeks. No major adverse effects were recorded.
Conclusions. In this pilot study, RTX was safe and successful in controlling renal disease activity in three patients with CSS. This agent deserves further study in CSS.
ANCA vasculitis; Churg–Strauss syndrome; glomerulonephritis; rituximab
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.
Wegener’s granulomatosis; vasculitis; etanercept; malignancy; cancer
Fibrosing mediastinitis (FM) and IgG4-related disease (IgG4-RD) are two fibroinflammatory disorders with potentially overlapping clinical and radiological features. In this paper, we looked for histopathologic features of IgG4-RD and enumerated infiltrating IgG4-positive plasma cells within mediastinal tissue biopsies from FM patients.
We identified 15 consecutive FM surgical mediastinal tissue biopsies between 1985 and 2006. All patients satisfied the clinical and radiological diagnostic criteria for FM. All patients had either serological or radiological evidence of prior histoplasmosis or granulomatous disease, respectively. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue sections of all patients were stained for H&E, IgG, and IgG4. Three samples met the predefined diagnostic criteria for IgG4-RD. In addition, characteristic histopathologic changes of IgG4-RD in the absence of diagnostic numbers of tissue infiltrating IgG4-positive plasma cells were seen in a number of additional cases (storiform cell-rich fibrosis in 11 cases, lymphoplasmacytic infiltrate in 7 cases, and obliterative phlebitis/arteritis in 2 cases). We conclude that up to one-third of histoplasmosis or granulomatous-disease-associated FM cases demonstrate histopathological features of IgG4-RD spectrum. Whether these changes occur as the host immune response against Histoplasma or represent a manifestation of IgG4-RD remains to be determined. Studies to prospectively identify these cases and evaluate their therapeutic responses to glucocorticoids and/or other immunosuppressive agents such as rituximab are warranted.
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.
Proteinase 3 (PR3)-specific antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) are highly specific for the autoimmune small vessel vasculitis, Wegener’s granulomatosis (WG). PR3-ANCA have proven diagnostic value but their pathogenic potential and utility as a biomarker for disease activity remain unclear. PR3-ANCA recognize conformational epitopes, and epitope-specific PR3-ANCA subsets with variable impact on biological functions of PR3 have been postulated. The aims of this study were to identify specific PR3 surface epitopes recognized by monoclonal antibodies (moAbs) and to determine whether the findings can be used to measure the functional impact of epitope-specific PR3-ANCA and their potential relationship to disease activity. We used a novel flow cytometry assay based on TALON-beads coated with recombinant human (H) and murine (M) PR3 and 10 custom-designed chimeric human/mouse rPR3-variants (Hm1–5/Mh1–5) identifying 5 separate non-conserved PR3 surface epitopes. Anti-PR3 moAbs recognize 4 major surface epitopes, and we identified the specific surface location of 3 of these with the chimeric rPR3-variants. The ability of PR3-ANCA to inhibit the enzymatic activity of PR3 was measured indirectly using a capture-ELISA system based on the different epitopes recognized by capturing moAbs. Epitope-specific PR3-ANCA capture-ELISA results obtained from patient plasma (n=27) correlated with the inhibition of enzymatic activity of PR3 by paired IgG preparations (r=0.7, P<0.01). The capture-ELISA results also seem to reflect disease activity. In conclusion, insights about epitopes recognized by anti-PR3 moAbs can be applied to separate PR3-ANCA subsets with predictable functional qualities. The ability of PR3-ANCA to inhibit the enzymatic activity of PR3, a property linked to disease activity, can now be gauged using a simple epitope-based capture-ELISA system.
ANCA; proteinase 3; Wegener’s granulomatosis; vasculitis
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.
Cyclophosphamide and glucocorticoids have been the cornerstone of remission-induction therapy for severe antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)–associated vasculitis for 40 years. Uncontrolled studies suggest that rituximab is effective and may be safer than a cyclophosphamide-based regimen.
We conducted a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, noninferiority trial of rituximab (375 mg per square meter of body-surface area per week for 4 weeks) as compared with cyclophosphamide (2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day) for remission induction. Glucocorticoids were tapered off; the primary end point was remission of disease without the use of prednisone at 6 months.
Nine centers enrolled 197 ANCA-positive patients with either Wegener’s granulomatosis or microscopic polyangiitis. Baseline disease activity, organ involvement, and the proportion of patients with relapsing disease were similar in the two treatment groups. Sixty-three patients in the rituximab group (64%) reached the primary end point, as compared with 52 patients in the control group (53%), a result that met the criterion for noninferiority (P<0.001). The rituximab-based regimen was more efficacious than the cyclophosphamide-based regimen for inducing remission of relapsing disease; 34 of 51 patients in the rituximab group (67%) as compared with 21 of 50 patients in the control group (42%) reached the primary end point (P = 0.01). Rituximab was also as effective as cyclophosphamide in the treatment of patients with major renal disease or alveolar hemorrhage. There were no significant differences between the treatment groups with respect to rates of adverse events.
Rituximab therapy was not inferior to daily cyclophosphamide treatment for induction of remission in severe ANCA-associated vasculitis and may be superior in relapsing disease. (Funded by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Genentech, and Biogen; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00104299.)
Rationale: Standard therapy for Wegener's granulomatosis is fraught with substantial toxicity and not always effective. B lymphocytes have been implicated in the pathogenesis of Wegener's granulomatosis. Their depletion has been proposed as salvage therapy for refractory disease. Earlier encouraging reports are confounded by concomitant immunosuppressive medications and include only limited available biomarker data.
Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of rituximab for remission induction in refractory Wegener's granulomatosis.
Methods: A prospective open-label pilot trial was conducted with 10 patients monitored for 1 yr. Included were patients with active severe antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)–associated vasculitis, ANCA positivity, and resistance to (or intolerance of) cyclophosphamide. The remission induction regimen consisted of oral prednisone (1 mg/kg/d) and four weekly infusions of rituximab (375 mg/m2). Prednisone was tapered and discontinued over 5 mo. Failure to achieve remission, a clinical flare in the absence of B lymphocytes, and inability to complete the glucocorticoid taper were considered treatment failures.
Main Results: Three women and seven men (median age, 57 yr; range, 25–72 yr) were enrolled. All had ANCA reacting with proteinase-3. The median activity score at enrollment was 6 (range, 5–10). All patients tolerated rituximab well, achieved swift B-lymphocyte depletion and complete clinical remission (activity score, 0) by 3 mo, and were tapered off glucocorticoids by 6 mo. Five patients were retreated with rituximab alone for recurring/rising ANCA titers according to protocol. One patient experienced a clinical flare after B lymphocyte reconstitution.
Conclusion: In this cohort, rituximab was a well-tolerated and effective remission induction agent for severe refractory Wegener's granulomatosis.
The neutrophil azurophil granule constituent proteinase 3 (PR3) is the principal antigen for anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) in Wegener's granulomatosis. The conformation of the mature PR3 enzyme results from intracellular post-translational processing. The nascent molecule undergoes proteolytic cleavage of the amino-terminal signal peptide and activation dipeptide and of a carboxy-terminal peptide extension. The conformation of PR3 is stabilized by four disulfide bonds and, to a lesser extent, by asparagine-linked glycosylation. Most anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies directed against proteinase 3 (PR3-ANCA) recognize conformational epitopes. The expression of recombinant PR3 has provided a better understanding of the significance of the various intracellular processing steps for enzymatic activity and recognition by PR3-ANCA.
ANCA; proteinase 3; recombinant proteins