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1.  How does BAFF activate B cells in patients with autoimmune diseases? 
In a study in a recent issue of Arthritis Research & Therapy, Yoshimoto and colleagues demonstrate that peripheral monocytes from patients with Sjögren's syndrome (SS) produce significantly higher amounts of B cell-activating factor (BAFF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in comparison with normal monocytes. This difference exists at baseline and is amplified after stimulation with interferon-gamma. Increased IL-6 secretion is partially suppressed by an anti-BAFF antibody, suggesting that signal transduction pathways mediated by BAFF are implicated in the regulation of IL-6 production by monocytes. The origin and pathways involved in this higher susceptibility to BAFF-driven IL-6 induction by monocytes of patients with SS are still unknown.
doi:10.1186/ar3729
PMCID: PMC3392821  PMID: 22360881
3.  Safety and effectiveness of adalimumab in patients with rheumatoid arthritis over 5 years of therapy in a phase 3b and subsequent postmarketing observational study 
Introduction
Patients with active rheumatoid arthritis who had failed at least one disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) were treated with adalimumab (ADA) in the ReAct study with the option to continue treatment for 5 years in ReAlise. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the long-term safety and effectiveness of ADA as prescribed from the first injection in ReAct to the last observation in ReAlise.
Methods
Patients received ADA alone or in combination with DMARDs according to usual clinical care practices. Adverse events (AEs) were tabulated by five time windows after the first ADA injection. Effectiveness measures included achievement of low disease activity (LDA), defined as Simplified Disease Activity Index (SDAI) ≤11, or remission, (REM), defined as SDAI ≤3.3.
Results
Of the 6,610 ReAct patients, 3,435 (52%) continued in ReAlise. At baseline in ReAct, mean age was 54 years, mean DAS28 was 6.0 and mean HAQ DI was 1.64. The mean treatment duration was 1,016 days, representing 18,272 patient-years (PYs) of ADA exposure. Overall incidence rates of serious AEs and serious infections were 13.8 and 2.8 events (E)/100 PYs, respectively. Serious AEs occurred most frequently in the first 6 months and deceased thereafter. Standardised mortality ratio was 0.71 (95% CI 0.57 to 0.87) and standardised incidence ratio for malignancies was 0.64 (95% CI 0.53 to 0.76). LDA was achieved by 50% and REM by 21% of patients at last observation.
Conclusions
Results of this large observational study of ADA in routine clinical practice were consistent with controlled trials, with no new safety concerns during a follow-up of more than 5 years. Effectiveness of ADA was maintained during long-term observation.
Trial registration
NCT00448383, NCT00234884
doi:10.1186/ar4452
PMCID: PMC3979145  PMID: 24460746
4.  Risk factors for total joint arthroplasty infection in patients receiving tumor necrosis factor α-blockers: a case-control study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(4):R145.
Introduction
The objective of this study was to assess natural microbial agents, history and risk factors for total joint arthroplasty (TJA) infections in patients receiving tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α-blockers, through the French RATIO registry and a case-control study.
Methods
Cases were TJA infections during TNFα-blocker treatments. Each case was compared to two controls (with TJA and TNFα-blocker therapy, but without TJA infection) matched on age (±15 years), TJA localization, type of rheumatic disorder and disease duration (±15 years). Statistical analyses included univariate and multivariate analyses with conditional logistic regression.
Results
In the 20 cases (18 rheumatoid arthritis), TJA infection concerned principally the knee (n = 12, 60%) and the hip (n = 5, 25%). Staphylococcus was the more frequent microorganism involved (n = 15, 75%). Four patients (20%) were hospitalized in an intensive care unit and two died from infection. Eight cases (40%) versus 5 controls (13%) had undergone primary TJA or TJA revision for the joint subsequently infected during the last year (P = 0.03). Of these procedures, 5 cases versus 1 control were performed without withdrawing TNFα-blockers (P = 0.08). In multivariate analysis, predictors of infection were primary TJA or TJA revision for the joint subsequently infected within the last year (odds ratio, OR = 88.3; 95%CI 1.1-7,071.6; P = 0.04) and increased daily steroid intake (OR = 5.0 per 5 mg/d increase; 1.1-21.6; P = 0.03). Case-control comparisons showed similar distribution between TNFα-blockers (P = 0.70).
Conclusions
In patients receiving TNFα-blockers, TJA infection is rare but potentially severe. Important risk factors are primary TJA or TJA revision within the last year, particularly when TNFα-blockers are not interrupted before surgery, and the daily steroid intake.
doi:10.1186/ar3087
PMCID: PMC2945039  PMID: 20637100
5.  Increased levels of circulating microparticles in primary Sjögren's syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis and relation with disease activity 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(5):R156.
Introduction
Cell stimulation leads to the shedding of phosphatidylserine (PS)-rich microparticles (MPs). Because autoimmune diseases (AIDs) are characterized by cell activation, we investigated level of circulating MPs as a possible biomarker in primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods
We measured plasma levels of total, platelet and leukocyte MPs by prothrombinase capture assay and flow cytometry in 43 patients with pSS, 20 with SLE and 24 with RA and in 44 healthy controls (HCs). Secretory phospholipase A2 (sPLA2) activity was assessed by fluorometry. Soluble CD40 ligand (sCD40L) and soluble P-selectin (sCD62P), reflecting platelet activation, were measured by ELISA.
Results
Patients with pSS showed increased plasma level of total MPs (mean ± SEM 8.49 ± 1.14 nM PS equivalent (Eq), P < 0.0001), as did patients with RA (7.23 ± 1.05 n PS Eq, P = 0.004) and SLE (7.3 ± 1.25 nM PS Eq, P = 0.0004), as compared with HCs (4.13 ± 0.2 nM PS Eq). Patients with AIDs all showed increased level of platelet MPs (P < 0.0001), but only those with pSS showed increased level of leukocyte MPs (P < 0.0001). Results by capture assay and flow cytometry were correlated. In patients with high disease activity according to extra-glandular complications (pSS), DAS28 (RA) or SLEDAI (SLE) compared with low-activity patients, the MP level was only slightly increased in comparison with those having a low disease activity. Platelet MP level was inversely correlated with anti-DNA antibody level in SLE (r = -0.65; P = 0.003) and serum β2 microglobulin level in pSS (r = -0.37; P < 0.03). The levels of total and platelet MPs were inversely correlated with sPLA2 activity (r = -0.37, P = 0.0007; r = -0.36, P = 0.002, respectively). sCD40L and sCD62P concentrations were significantly higher in pSS than in HC (P ≤ 0.006).
Conclusions
Plasma MP level is elevated in pSS, as well as in SLE and RA, and could be used as a biomarker reflecting systemic cell activation. Level of leukocyte-derived MPs is increased in pSS only. The MP level is low in case of more severe AID, probably because of high secretory phospholipase A2 (sPLA2) activity, which leads to consumption of MPs. Increase of platelet-derived MPs, sCD40L and sCD62P, highlights platelet activation in pSS.
doi:10.1186/ar2833
PMCID: PMC2787287  PMID: 19832990
6.  Markers of B-lymphocyte activation are elevated in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis and correlated with disease activity in the ESPOIR cohort 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(4):R114.
Introduction
Little is known about systemic B-cell activation in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We therefore evaluated the serum levels of markers of B-cell activation in patients included in the ESPOIR early arthritis cohort.
Methods
In the ESPOIR early arthritis cohort (at least 2 swollen joints for more than 6 weeks but less than 6 months), 710 patients were assessed at 1 year and either met the 1987 American College of Rheumatology criteria for RA (n = 578) or had undifferentiated arthritis (n = 132). Baseline serum samples of patients naïve to corticosteroid and disease-modifying antirheumatic drug treatment were assessed for beta2-microglobulin, IgG, IgA, IgM, immunoglobulin free light chains of immunoglobulins, and B-cell activating factor of the tumor necrosis factor family (BAFF). The BAFF gene 871T>C polymorphism was genotyped in all patients.
Results
All markers of B-cell activation except BAFF and IgM were significantly higher in patients with early RA than those with undifferentiated arthritis. Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) and beta2-microglobulin were associated with a diagnosis of early RA in the multivariate analysis. Markers of B-cell activation, except BAFF, were associated with disease activity, rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP secretion. The BAFF gene polymorphism was not associated with early RA.
Conclusions
Markers of B-cell activation are elevated in patients with early RA, compared with undifferentiated arthritis, independently of any systemic increase in BAFF secretion, and correlate with disease activity. This study sheds new light on the early pathogenic role of B-lymphocytes in RA and suggests that targeting them might be a useful therapeutic strategy in early RA.
doi:10.1186/ar2773
PMCID: PMC2745796  PMID: 19627580
7.  Masitinib in the treatment of active rheumatoid arthritis: results of a multicentre, open-label, dose-ranging, phase 2a study 
Introduction
Since current treatment options for patients suffering from active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) remain inadequate, especially for those unresponsive to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), new and improved medication is needed. This study evaluates the safety and efficacy of masitinib (AB1010), a potent and selective protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor of c-KIT, in the monotherapy treatment of DMARD-refractory RA.
Methods
This was a multicentre, uncontrolled, open-label, randomised, dose-ranging, phase 2a trial. Masitinib was administered orally to 43 patients who had inadequate response to DMARDs, at initial randomised dosing levels of 3 and 6 mg/kg per day over a 12-week period. Dose adjustment was permitted based upon tolerability and response criteria. Efficacy was assessed via American College of Rheumatology 20%/50%/70% improvement criteria (ACR20/50/70) responses, disease activity score using 28 joint counts (DAS28), index of improvement in RA (ACRn) and C-reactive protein (CRP) improvement, relative to baseline at week 12.
Results
Improvement was observed in all efficacy endpoints, including ACR20/50/70 scores of 54%, 26% and 8%, respectively, and a reduction in CRP level by greater than 50% for approximately half the population. This improvement was sustainable throughout an extension phase (> 84 weeks) and was also independent of initial DMARD resistance (anti-tumour necrosis factor-alpha and/or methotrexate). A relatively high patient withdrawal rate (37%) required the use of last observation carried forward (LOCF) data imputation. Incidence of adverse events was high (95%), although the majority were of mild or moderate severity with a considerable decline in frequency observed after 12 weeks of treatment. Two nonfatal serious adverse events were reported. Dose-response analyses tentatively indicate that an initial dosing level of 6.0 mg/kg per day administered orally in two daily intakes is the most appropriate, based upon potency and tolerability trends.
Conclusions
Treatment with masitinib improved DMARD-refractory active RA. Following an initial high incidence of mostly mild to moderate side effects during the first 12 weeks of treatment, masitinib appears to be generally well tolerated. This, together with evidence of a sustainable efficacy response, suggests that masitinib is suitable for long-term treatment regimens. Since this was the first study of masitinib in a nononcologic pathology, the relatively high patient withdrawal rate observed can be partly attributed to a highly cautious response to adverse events. There is sufficient compelling evidence to warrant further placebo-controlled investigation.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00831922.
doi:10.1186/ar2740
PMCID: PMC2714151  PMID: 19549290
8.  Effect of methotrexate and anti-TNF on Epstein-Barr virus T-cell response and viral load in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or spondylarthropathies 
Introduction
There is a suspicion of increased risk of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated lymphoproliferations in patients with inflammatory arthritides receiving immunosuppressive drugs. We investigated the EBV load and EBV-specific T-cell response in patients treated with methotrexate (MTX) or anti-TNF therapy.
Methods
Data for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (n = 58) or spondylarthropathy (SpA) (n = 28) were analyzed at baseline in comparison with controls (n = 22) and after 3 months of MTX or anti-TNF therapy for EBV load and EBV-specific IFNγ-producing T cells in response to EBV latent-cycle and lytic-cycle peptides.
Results
The EBV load and the number of IFNγ-producing T-cells after peptide stimulation were not significantly different between groups at baseline (P = 0.61 and P = 0.89, respectively). The EBV load was not significantly modified by treatment, for RA with MTX (P = 0.74) or anti-TNF therapy (P = 0.94) or for SpA with anti-TNF therapy (P = 1.00). The number of EBV-specific T cells was not significantly modified by treatment, for RA with MTX (P = 0.58) or anti-TNF drugs (P = 0.19) or for SpA with anti-TNF therapy (P = 0.39). For all patients, the EBV load and EBV-specific T cells were significantly correlated (P = 0.017; R = 0.21). For most patients, short-term exposure (3 months) to MTX or anti-TNF did not alter the EBV load or EBV-specific T-cell response but two patients had discordant evolution.
Conclusions
These data are reassuring and suggest there is no short-term defect in EBV-immune surveillance in patients receiving MTX or anti-TNF drugs. However, in these patients, long term follow-up of EBV-specific T-cell response is necessary and the role of non-EBV-related mechanisms of lymphomagenesis is not excluded.
doi:10.1186/ar2708
PMCID: PMC2714125  PMID: 19470150
9.  CTLA-4 +49A/G and CT60 gene polymorphisms in primary Sjögren syndrome 
CTLA-4 encodes cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4, a cell-surface molecule providing a negative signal for T-cell activation. CTLA-4 gene polymorphisms have been widely studied in connection with genetic susceptibility to various autoimmune diseases, but studies have led to contradictory results in different populations. This case-control study sought to investigate whether CTLA-4 CT60 and/or +49A/G polymorphisms were involved in the genetic predisposition to primary Sjögren syndrome (pSS). We analysed CTLA-4 CT60 and +49A/G polymorphisms in a first cohort of 142 patients with pSS (cohort 1) and 241 controls, all of Caucasian origin. A replication study was performed on a second cohort of 139 patients with pSS (cohort 2). In cohort 1, the CTLA-4 +49A/G*A allele was found on 73% of chromosomes in patients with pSS, compared with 66% in controls (p = 0.036; odds ratio (OR) 1.41, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.02 to 1.95). No difference in CTLA-4 CT60 allelic or genotypic distribution was observed between patients (n = 142) and controls (n = 241). In the replication cohort, the CTLA-4 +49A/G*A allele was found on 62% of chromosomes in patients with pSS, compared with 66% in controls (p = 0.30; OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.63 to 1.16). Thus, the CTLA-4 +49A/G*A allele excess among patients from cohort 1 was counterbalanced by its under-representation in cohort 2. When the results from the patients in both cohorts were pooled (n = 281), there was no difference in CTLA-4 +49A/G allelic or genotypic distribution in comparison with controls. Our results demonstrate a lack of association between CTLA-4 CT60 or +49A/G polymorphisms and pSS. Premature conclusions might have been made if a replication study had not been performed. These results illustrate the importance of case-control studies performed on a large number of patients. In fact, sampling bias may account for some contradictory results previously reported for CTLA-4 association studies in autoimmune diseases.
doi:10.1186/ar2136
PMCID: PMC1906800  PMID: 17341301
10.  Inhibition of anti-tuberculosis T-lymphocyte function with tumour necrosis factor antagonists 
Reactivation of latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection is a major complication of anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α treatment, but its mechanism is not fully understood. We evaluated the effect of the TNF antagonists infliximab (Ifx), adalimumab (Ada) and etanercept (Eta) on anti-mycobacterial immune responses in two conditions: with ex vivo studies from patients treated with TNF antagonists and with the in vitro addition of TNF antagonists to cells stimulated with mycobacterial antigens. In both cases, we analysed the response of CD4+ T lymphocytes to purified protein derivative (PPD) and to culture filtrate protein (CFP)-10, an antigen restricted to Mtb. The tests performed were lymphoproliferation and immediate production of interferon (IFN)-γ. In the 68 patients with inflammatory diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, spondylarthropathy or Crohn's disease), including 31 patients with a previous or latent tuberculosis (TB), 14 weeks of anti-TNF-α treatment had no effect on the proliferation of CD4+ T lymphocytes. In contrast, the number of IFN-γ-releasing CD4+ T lymphocytes decreased for PPD (p < 0.005) and CFP-10 (p < 0.01) in patients with previous TB and for PPD (p < 0.05) in other patients (all vaccinated with Bacille Calmette-Guérin). Treatments with Ifx and with Eta affected IFN-γ release to a similar extent. In vitro addition of TNF antagonists to CD4+ T lymphocytes stimulated with mycobacterial antigens inhibited their proliferation and their expression of membrane-bound TNF (mTNF). These effects occurred late in cultures, suggesting a direct effect of TNF antagonists on activated mTNF+ CD4+ T lymphocytes, and Ifx and Ada were more efficient than Eta. Therefore, TNF antagonists have a dual action on anti-mycobacterial CD4+ T lymphocytes. Administered in vivo, they decrease the frequency of the subpopulation of memory CD4+ T lymphocytes rapidly releasing IFN-γ upon challenge with mycobacterial antigens. Added in vitro, they inhibit the activation of CD4+ T lymphocytes by mycobacterial antigens. Such a dual effect may explain the increased incidence of TB in patients treated with TNF antagonists as well as possible differences between TNF antagonists for the incidence and the clinical presentation of TB reactivation.
doi:10.1186/ar1994
PMCID: PMC1779425  PMID: 16859506
11.  B cell-activating factor of the tumor necrosis factor family (BAFF) is expressed under stimulation by interferon in salivary gland epithelial cells in primary Sjögren's syndrome 
B cell-activating factor (BAFF) has a key role in promoting B-lymphocyte activation and survival in primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS). The cellular origin of BAFF overexpression in salivary glands of patients with pSS is not fully known. We investigated whether salivary gland epithelial cells (SGECs), the main targets of autoimmunity in pSS, could produce and express BAFF. We used quantitative RT-PCR, ELISA and immunocytochemistry in cultured SGECs from eight patients with pSS and eight controls on treatment with IL-10, tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), IFN-α and IFN-γ. At baseline, BAFF expression in SGECs was low in pSS patients and in controls. Treatment with IFN-α, IFN-γ and TNF-α + IFN-γ increased the level of BAFF mRNA in pSS patients (the mean increases were 27-fold, 25-fold and 62-fold, respectively) and in controls (mean increases 19.1-fold, 26.7-fold and 17.7-fold, respectively), with no significant difference between patients and controls. However, in comparison with that at baseline, stimulation with IFN-α significantly increased the level of BAFF mRNA in SGECs of pSS patients (p = 0.03) but not in controls (p = 0.2), which suggests that SGECs of patients with pSS are particularly susceptible to expressing BAFF under IFN-α stimulation. Secretion of BAFF protein, undetectable at baseline, was significantly increased after IFN-α and IFN-γ stimulation both in pSS patients (40.8 ± 12.5 (± SEM) and 47.4 ± 18.7 pg/ml, respectively) and controls (24.9 ± 8.0 and 9.0 ± 3.9 pg/ml, respectively), with no significant difference between pSS and controls. Immunocytochemistry confirmed the induction of cytoplasmic BAFF expression after stimulation with IFN-α and IFN-γ. This study confirms the importance of resident cells of target organs in inducing or perpetuating autoimmunity. Demonstrating the capacity of SGECs to express and secrete BAFF after IFN stimulation adds further information to the pivotal role of these epithelial cells in the pathogenesis of pSS, possibly after stimulation by innate immunity. Our results suggest that an anti-BAFF therapeutic approach could be particularly interesting in pSS.
doi:10.1186/ar1912
PMCID: PMC1526588  PMID: 16507175
12.  No evidence for an association between the -871 T/C promoter polymorphism in the B-cell-activating factor gene and primary Sjögren's syndrome 
Polyclonal B cell activation might be related to pathogenic over-expression of B-cell-activating factor (BAFF) in primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) and other autoimmune diseases. We therefore investigated whether BAFF over-expression in pSS could be a primary, genetically determined event that leads to the disease. The complete BAFF gene was sequenced in Caucasian pSS patients and control individuals. The only single nucleotide polymorphism frequently observed, namely -871 T/C in the promoter region, was then genotyped in 162 French patients with pSS and 90 French control individuals. No significant differences in allele (T allele frequency: 49.7% in patients with pSS versus 50% in controls; P = 0.94) and genotype frequencies of BAFF polymorphism were detected between pSS patients and control individuals. BAFF gene polymorphism was not associated with a specific pattern of antibody secretion either. T allele carriers had significantly increased BAFF protein serum levels (mean values of 8.6 and 5.7 ng/ml in patients with TT and TC genotypes, respectively, versus 3.3 ng/ml in patients with CC genotype; P = 0.01), although no correlation was observed between BAFF polymorphism and mRNA level. In conclusion, BAFF gene polymorphism is neither involved in genetic predisposition to pSS nor associated with a specific pattern of antibody production.
doi:10.1186/ar1884
PMCID: PMC1526574  PMID: 16507129
13.  Systemic lupus erythematosus induced by anti-tumour necrosis factor alpha therapy: a French national survey 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(3):R545-R551.
The development of drug-induced lupus remains a matter of concern in patients treated with anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) alpha. The incidence of such adverse effects is unknown. We undertook a retrospective national study to analyse such patients.
Between June and October 2003, 866 rheumatology and internal medicine practitioners from all French hospital centres prescribing anti-TNF in rheumatic diseases registered on the website of the 'Club Rhumatismes et Inflammation' were contacted by email to obtain the files of patients with TNF-induced systemic lupus erythematosus. Twenty-two cases were collected, revealing two aspects of these manifestations. Ten patients (six patients receiving infliximab, four patients receiving etanercept) only had anti-DNA antibodies and skin manifestations one could classify as 'limited skin lupus' or 'toxidermia' in a context of autoimmunity, whereas 12 patients (nine patients receiving infliximab, three patients receiving etanercept) had more complete drug-induced lupus with systemic manifestations and at least four American Congress of Rheumatology criteria. One patient had central nervous system manifestations. No patients had lupus nephritis. The signs of lupus occurred within a mean of 9 months (range 3–16 months) in patients treated with infliximab and within a mean of 4 months (range 2–5 months) in patients treated with etanercept. In all cases after diagnosis was determined, anti-TNF was stopped and specific treatment introduced in eight patients: two patients received intravenous methylprednisolone, four patients received oral steroids (15–35 mg/day), and two patients received topical steroids. Lupus manifestations abated within a few weeks (median 8 weeks, standard deviation 3–16) in all patients except one with longer-lasting evolution (6 months). At that time, cautious estimations (unpublished data from Schering Plough Inc. and Wyeth Inc.) indicated that about 7700 patients had been exposed to infliximab and 3000 to etanercept for inflammatory arthritides in France. It thus appears that no drug was more implicated than the other in lupus syndromes, whose incidence was 15/7700 = 0.19% with infliximab and 7/3800 = 0.18% with etanercept.
Clinicians should be aware that lupus syndromes with systemic manifestations may occur in patients under anti-TNF alpha treatment.
doi:10.1186/ar1715
PMCID: PMC1174953  PMID: 15899041

Results 1-13 (13)