Randomised double-blind comparison of chimeric monoclonal antibody to tumour necrosis factor alpha (cA2) versus placebo in rheumatoid arthritis.
Elliott MJ., Maini RN., Feldmann M., Kalden JR., Antoni C., Smolen JS., Leeb B., Breedveld FC., Macfarlane JD., Bijl H.
Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) is a critical inflammatory mediator in rheumatoid arthritis, and may therefore be a useful target for specific immunotherapy. In support of this hypothesis, we previously observed beneficial responses in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis after open-label administration of a chimeric monoclonal antibody to TNF alpha (cA2). We now report the results of a four-centre, randomised double-blind trial of a single infusion of 1 or 10 mg/kg cA2 compared with placebo in 73 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. The primary endpoint of the study was the achievement at week 4 of a Paulus 20% response, an amalgam of six clinical, observational, and laboratory variables. Intention-to-treat analysis of data from individual patients showed only 2 of 24 placebo recipients responding at this time, compared with 11 of 25 patients treated with low-dose cA2 (p = 0.0083) and 19 of 24 patients treated with high-dose cA2 (p < 0.0001). Over half of the high-dose cA2 patients responded by the more stringent 50% Paulus criteria at this time (p = 0.0005). The magnitude of these responses was impressive, with maximum mean improvements in individual disease-activity assessments, such as tender or swollen-joint counts and in serum C-reactive protein, exceeding 60% for patients on high-dose treatment. There were two severe adverse events. 1 patient on 1 mg/kg cA2 developed pneumonia ("possibly" treatment-related) and 1 on 10 mg/kg had a fracture ("probably not" treatment-related). The results provide the first good evidence that specific cytokine blockade can be effective in human inflammatory disease and define a new direction for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.