Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a chronic autoimmune disorder of the neuromuscular junction characterised by an autoantibody against acetylcholine receptor (AChR-Ab), autoantibody against muscle-specific kinase (MuSK-Ab), lipoprotein-related protein 4 or agrin in the postsynaptic membrane at the neuromuscular junction. Many patients are resistant to conventional treatment and effective therapies are needed. Rituximab (RTX) is a monoclonal antibody directed against CD20 antigen on B cells which has been successfully employed in anti-MuSK-Ab+MG, but the efficacy in anti-AChR-Ab+MG is still debated. The purpose of this systematic review was to describe the best evidence for RTX in the acetylcholine receptor subtype. The authors undertook a literature search during the period of 1999–2019 according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analys methodology, employing (myasthenia)+(gravis)+(RTX) as search terms. The analysis was confined to studies that include at least five patients with confirmed anti-AChR-Ab+MG. Thirteen studies have been selected, showing a good safety. The data obtained were heterogeneous in terms of posology, administration scheme and patients’ evaluation, ranging from a minimum of two to a maximum of three cycles. RTX led to a sustained clinical improvement with prolonged time to relapse, in parallel to a reduction or discontinuation of other immunosuppressive therapies. Treatment with RTX appears to work in some but not all patients with anti-AChR-Ab+MG, but randomised controlled trials are needed. Future studies should take into account the subtype of MG and employ reliable measures of outcome and severity focusing on how to identify patients who may benefit from the treatment. Trial registration number: NCT02110706.
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Contributors VDS and AL planned the study. MGR contributed to the study conception and design. The literature search and data analysis were performed by VDS, AL and MGR. The first draft of the manuscript was written by VDS, AL and MGR. CR, ADM and FB revised the work. VDS submitted the study.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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