Background Rituximab (RTX) is used for resistant SLE but clinical response varies. We previously validated two interferon-stimulated gene expression scores (IFN-Score-A and IFN-Score-B) that improved prediction of clinical outcomes in SLE.1 IFN-Score-A included most commonly reported ISGs and predicted flares and glucocorticoid requirements. IFN-Score-B included ISGs that respond to multiple IFN subtypes and predicted development of SLE in At-Risk individuals. Diagnosis of SLE was associated with both scores, while only IFN-Score-B was elevated in RA. The British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Registry (BILAG-BR) collects samples for RTX-treated patients in the UK. MASTERPLANS is a consortium to identify predictors of drug response.
Methods Patients were recruited if they were starting a first cycle of RTX for active SLE (BILAG A or 2xBILAG B) despite previous cyclophosphamide or mycophenolate mofetil. Disease activity was measured using BILAG-2004. Clinical response was defined as improvement by ≥1 grade in active BILAG-2004 systems with no worsening in other systems. Whole blood was collected into TEMPUS tubes and RNA extracted. IFN-Scores were measured using a custom Taqman array as previously described [El Sherbiny et al., 2018]. Multivariate logistic regression was used to test IFN-Scores and baseline clinical covariates as predictors of BILAG response at 6 months.
Results Samples were available from 147 patients, of whom 84 had complete baseline and 6 month clinical data available and were included in this analysis. 40/84 (47.6%) patients had BILAG response at 6 months. In univariate and multivariate analysis, high IFN-Score-B expression was significantly associated with clinical response (see table 1).
Conclusions This preliminary analysis suggests that assessment of IFN activity has a role in predicting response to RTX. A novel IFN score (Score B) was more predictive than classic ISGs (Score A). These results add to a body of work showing that IFN-Score-B predicts clinically significant outcomes independently of overall IFN activity. Future work will analyse this biomarker in a larger cohort of patients and integrate with other putative clinical and biological predictors of response.
Acknowledgements This project was funded by a grant from the Medical Research Council for MASTERPLANS.
El-Sherbiny YM, Vital EM. Sci. Rep. 2018;8:5793.
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