Treatment with belimumab resulted in a sustained improvement of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) disease activity in 46% of patients at week 52, according to a novel combined responder index in results presented today at EULAR 2007, the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology in Barcelona, Spain.
Historically, it has been difficult to adequately measure the therapeutic responses to drug intervention in SLE patients, due to the diverse presentations of the disease itself. A novel combined responder index which takes into account three commonly used measures of disease progression -- SELENA SLEDAI (SS), physician global assessment (PGA) and presence of BILAG-classified flares (new 1A or 2B) -- was utilised by the research team to analyse the effect of the BLyS inhibitor belimumab on the progression of SLE disease activity (see note to Editors).
Lead author Dr Ellen Ginzler, of SUNY-Downstate Medical Center, New York, US, commented: “While the results demonstrated that treatment with belimumab resulted in a sustained improvement in SLE symptoms in patients with serologically active disease, we also confirmed that combining multiple disease activity measures is a successful method of assessing overall disease activity, and appears to be associated with the presence of biomarkers and quality of life improvements in responders.”
Patients enrolled in this 52 week randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study received belimumab in doses of 1mg/kg, 4mg/kg and 10mg/kg or placebo plus SLE standard therapy. Overall, ~70% of subjects were taking prednisone and/or anti-malarials such as plaquenil ( used in SLE treatment regimes); 50% of these subjects were also taking an immunosuppressive drug (e.g., methotrexate, azathioprine, mycophenolate, leflunomide). The 449 patients entering the study were evaluated according to the disease activity measurement scores SS and Disease Activity Index, PGA, BILAG, SF-36 and biomarkers including B-cell subsets and autoantibodies. 71.5% of the initial 449 patients entered the study with baseline serological activity. An evidence-based combined endpoint was developed that incorporates a response parameter and controls against worsening in other organ systems.
A combined response, consisting of an improvement in SS score of 4 points or more, with no new BILAG 1A or 2B flares, and no worsening in PGA (
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