Multiple sclerosis patients who start Rituxan (rituximab) treatment are three times more likely to have unchanged or improved brain-scan readings than worse ones, according to a study.
Holy Name Medical Center researchers presented the findings at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers annual meeting in New Orleans, May 24-27. The presentation was titled “Use of Rituximab Therapy in Improving Radiologic Evidence of Disease in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis.”
The researchers at the Teaneck, New Jersey, center noted that doctors often choose Rituxan when other disease-modifying treatments fail. The drug, which is not approved for MS, is similar to the newly approved Ocrevus (ocrelizumab). Both target CD20 immune B-cells instead of T-cells, as the majority of disease-modifying MS treatments do.
Earlier studies had shown that Rituxan could reduce the number of new brain lesions in both relapsing and secondary progressive MS and prevent lesions from becoming larger.
To confirm its effectiveness, researchers performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans on 90 MS patients before and after Rituxan.
The patients ranged from 23 to 71 years old, with an average age of 45.4 years. Fifty-nine were women and 31 men. The presentation didn’t specify the type of MS the patients had — relapsing or progressive.
Seventy-seven percent of the patients had unchanged or improved MRI readings after Rituxan. Two of these positive measures were no significant increase in the number of brain lesions and no new active or inflammatory lesions. Another positive measure was active lesions resolving after treatment.
Twenty-three percent of patients had worse readings, which were defined as new lesions or lesions that were growing larger.
A statistical analysis showed that patients were more likely to have stable or improved MRI brain scans after treatment with Rituxan than worse scans.
A 2013 review of studies in which Rituxan was explored in clinical trials — including one study in primary progressive and three in relapsing MS patients — had shown similar results in relapsing patients. The study that explored Rituxan in primary progressive patients had not measured new inflammatory lesions.