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Leukocytapheresis Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Results Compared with Control Trial

Yingjuan Chen, PhD; Yongjing Cheng, PhD; Ming Gao, MD; Jia Huang, MD; Cibo Huang, MD; Bingyao Mu, MD; Qian Wang, MD; Feng Yang, MD; Rongwei Zhou, MD

Context • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic multisystem autoimmune disease, mainly characterized by synovitis and with symmetrical joint involvement. LCAP therapy for RA patients has been shown to be safe and efficacious in some developed countries for over a decade. Objective • The study intended to evaluate the efficacy and safety of leukocytopheresis (LCAP) for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to study the influence of treatment on the levels of various serum cytokines. Design • The study was a nonblinded, nonrandomized, controlled trial. Setting • The study took place in the Department of Rheumatology and Immunology at Beijing Hospital at the National Center of Gerontology in Beijing, China. Participants • Participants were 51 patients with RA at the hospital with a 28-joint disease activity score (DAS28) exceeding the 3.20 needed to fulfill the classification criteria of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). Intervention • Participants were divided into 2 groups. One group (intervention group) received LCAP therapy (n = 20), while the control group (n = 31) received disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Patients receiving the LCAP therapy were treated using a Cellsorba column every 5 days for a total of 5 treatments. Outcome Measures • Clinical assessment of participants’ symptoms included: (1) a tender-joint count, (2) a swollen-joint count, (3) erythrocyte sedimentation rates (ESR), (4) C-reactive protein levels (CRP), (5) a visual analog scale (VAS) for pain, (6) the DAS28 C-reactive protein (DAS28-CRP) scores, and the Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index (HAQ-DI). The study also evaluated participants’ scores for the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Core Data Set. Serum collected before and after therapy from both groups was analyzed for the levels of bradykinin, serotonin, heat shock protein 70, human CXC-chemokine ligand 16 (CXCL16), prostaglandin E2, and macrophage inflammation protein 1a. Results • At week 4 for participants receiving the LCAP therapy, ACR20, ACR50, and ACR70 were observed in 55%, 30%, and 20% of patients, respectively, compared to 19.4%, 3.2%, and 0% for patients in the control group (P < .05). Also, at week 24 of LCAP therapy, ACR20, ACR50, and ACR70 were observed in 70%, 50%, and 30% of patients, respectively, which was significantly higher than the 25.8%, 12.9%, and 3.2% of patients in the control group (P < .05). The serum levels of CXCL16 and serotonin were significantly reduced in the LCAP group compared with control group. Conclusions • This study indicated that LCAP therapy can significantly decrease RA disease activity and is a safe and effective alternative therapy. LCAP therapy significantly reduced serum CXCL16 and serotonin levels, offering a putative mechanism by which it improves the articular symptoms of RA.

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