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Efficacy of canakinumab as first-line biologic agent in adult-onset Still’s disease

The Correction to this article has been published in Arthritis Research & Therapy 2019 21:69

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 [1].

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).

Table 1 Patient characteristics and response to therapy

Biologic therapy with IL-1 inhibitors should be instituted earlier in AOSD course for more favorable outcomes [2]. 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 [4].

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 [2]. Early treatment is nevertheless advisable and may reduce chances of chronic disease and permanent damage [2, 5].

Change history

  • 25 February 2019

    Following publication of the original article [1], the authors reported an error in the spelling of Lorenzo Dagna’s name.

Abbreviations

AOSD:

Adult-onset Still’s disease

CRP:

C-reactive protein

DMARD:

Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug

ESR:

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate

IL-1β:

Interleukin-1β

References

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    Cavalli G, Franchini S, Aiello P, Guglielmi B, Berti A, Campochiaro C, Sabbadini MG, Baldissera E, Dagna L. Efficacy and safety of biological agents in adult-onset Still's disease. Scand J Rheumatol. 2015;44(4):309–14.

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    Junge G, Mason J, Feist E. Adult onset Still’s disease-the evidence that anti-interleukin-1 treatment is effective and well-tolerated (a comprehensive literature review). Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2017;47(2):295–302.

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    Colafrancesco S, Priori R, Valesini G, Argolini L, Baldissera E, Bartoloni E, Cammelli D, Canestrari G, Cantarini L, Cavallaro E, et al. Response to Interleukin-1 inhibitors in 140 Italian patients with adult-onset Still’s disease: a multicentre retrospective observational study. Front Pharmacol. 2017;8:369.

  4. 4.

    Cavalli G, Dinarello CA. Treating rheumatological diseases and co-morbidities with interleukin-1 blocking therapies. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2015;54(12):2134–44.

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    Pouchot J, Arlet JB. Biological treatment in adult-onset Still’s disease. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2012;26(4):477–87.

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Acknowledgements

No individuals were involved besides those included in the Author list.

Data sharing

Not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analyzed during the current study.

Funding

GC has received funding from AIRC under MFAG 2018 - ID. 22136 project – P.I. Cavalli Giulio. CAD is supported by NIH grant AI-15614.

Author information

GC, AT, GDL, CC, EB, and LD took care of patients; GC performed the statistical analysis and drafted the paper; CAD participated in the design of the study and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Correspondence to Giulio Cavalli.

Ethics declarations

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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Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Additional information

The original version of this article was revised: Lorenzo Dagna's name was corrected.

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