Several monoclonal antibodies targeting B cells have been tested as therapeutics for inflammatory rheumatic diseases. We review important observations from randomized clinical trials regarding the efficacy and safety of anti-B cell antibody-based therapies for rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis, polymyositis/dermatomyositis, and primary Sjögren's syndrome. For some anti-B cell agents, clinical benefits have been convincingly demonstrated, while other B cell-targeted therapies failed to improve outcomes when added to standard-of-care treatment or were associated with increased rates of adverse events. Although the risk-benefit balance seems to be acceptable for currently licensed anti-B cell agents, additional studies are required to fully assess the safety of treatment regimens involving prolonged interference with B cell counts and functions in rheumatic disorders. Future studies should also evaluate how to maintain disease control by means of conventional and/or biologic immunosuppressants after remission-induction with anti-B cell antibodies.
Annual Review of Medicine, 2014, Vol 65, p. 263-78