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Efficacy of canakinumab as first-line biologic agent in adult-onset Still’s disease
Arthritis Research & Therapy volume 21, Article number: 54 (2019)
Adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD) is a rare condition characterized by fever, arthritis, skin rash, and multi-organ inflammation. The pathogenesis is mediated by the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-1β, as confirmed by the clinical efficacy of selective blockade. Anakinra, a recombinant inhibitor of the IL-1β receptor, currently represents the cornerstone of biologic therapy .
More recently, a monoclonal antibody blocking IL-1β, canakinumab, entered the clinical arena and became available for the treatment of AOSD. The efficacy of canakinumab in AOSD is being evaluated in a clinical trial (NCT022042939). At present, evidence from several case reports or series suggest good efficacy in AOSD (reviewed in [2, 3]): of note, in all published cases, canakinumab was used following failure of one or more biologics, including anakinra.
Here, we report the efficacy of canakinumab as a first-line biologic agent in AOSD. Four patients with severe DMARD-refractory AOSD received canakinumab (4 mg/kg/4 weeks) following failure of conventional treatment with corticosteroids and methotrexate. Patient characteristics and response to therapy are shown in Table 1. In all patients, treatment with canakinumab led to striking clinical responses, within days of initiation. Fever and skin rash disappeared first, followed by progressive improvement in arthritis. If present, inflammatory organ involvement also responded to treatment, as confirmed by resolution of pericardial inflammation and hepatosplenomegaly in two and one patients, respectively. Marked reductions in CRP, ESR, and serum ferritin mirrored the efficacy on clinical manifestations. Reduced disease severity allowed for robust tapering of corticosteroid therapy, which was discontinued in two patients and substantially reduced in two patients (Table 1).
Biologic therapy with IL-1 inhibitors should be instituted earlier in AOSD course for more favorable outcomes . Both IL-1 blocking agents anakinra and canakinumab received EMA approval for the treatment of AOSD. Although anakinra and canakinumab block the same target, they have different mechanisms of action. Anakinra, a recombinant inhibitor of the IL-1 receptor, requires daily injections due to a short half-life of 6 h. Canakinumab, a fully human monoclonal antibody selectively blocking IL-1β, has a longer half-life and is administered monthly .
In this study, first-line biologic therapy of AOSD with canakinumab resulted in rapid and marked efficacy, ultimately leading to full clinical remissions in all patients and allowing for robust steroid-sparing effects. Canakinumab in AOSD is often used as a last line of treatment following failure of multiple other agents, including anakinra . Early treatment is nevertheless advisable and may reduce chances of chronic disease and permanent damage [2, 5].
Adult-onset Still’s disease
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
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No individuals were involved besides those included in the Author list.
Not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analyzed during the current study.
GC has received funding from AIRC under MFAG 2018 - ID. 22136 project – P.I. Cavalli Giulio. CAD is supported by NIH grant AI-15614.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Need for approval waived as canakinumab is approved by Italian regulating bodies for the treatment of AOSD. Patients gave their consent to drug administration and utilization of data in anonymous form for research purposes.
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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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The original version of this article was revised: Lorenzo Dagna's name was corrected.
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Cavalli, G., Tomelleri, A., De Luca, G. et al. Efficacy of canakinumab as first-line biologic agent in adult-onset Still’s disease. Arthritis Res Ther 21, 54 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-019-1843-9