Current Rheumatology Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp 350–356

B cell depletion therapy in systemic lupus erythematosus

  • Jennifer Anolik
  • Iñaki Sanz
  • R. John Looney


There is a growing body of experimental evidence that B lymphocytes play a central role in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). B cells are, by definition, the precursors of antibody-secreting cells, and thus are the source of pathogenic autoantibodies. However, recent data indicate that B cells are not merely the passive producers of immunoglobulins, but also play a central role in autoimmunity via nonconventional mechanisms, including autoantigen presentation and modulation of other immune cells. Thus, B lymphocyte depletion has recently emerged as a promising therapeutic approach to the treatment of autoimmune diseases, including SLE. Rituximab is a chimeric mouse-human monoclonal antibody against the B cell-specific antigen CD20, which selectively and profoundly depletes B lymphocytes and has been widely used to treat B cell lymphomas. Recent open-label studies indicate that rituximab is safe and may be efficacious in the treatment of SLE, and continued study with randomized clinical trials is justified.


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Copyright information

© Current Science Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Anolik
    • 1
  • Iñaki Sanz
  • R. John Looney
  1. 1.Department of Medicine: Immunology and RheumatologyUniversity of Rochester School of MedicineRochesterUSA

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