B-cell depletion with the anti-CD20 antibody rituximab is highly effective for pemphigus vulgaris (PV) treatment. However, most patients experience relapse, and intravenous rituximab infusions are expensive. Therefore, cost-effective anti-CD20 therapies are desirable.
A compassionate-use investigational new drug protocol was approved to administer veltuzumab, a second-generation humanized anti-CD20 antibody, to a patient with refractory PV. Veltuzumab was administered as two 320-mg (188 mg/m2) subcutaneous doses 2 weeks apart, resulting in complete remission of disease off therapy. The disease relapsed 2 years after treatment. A second cycle of subcutaneous veltuzumab, using the same dosage regimen, again induced complete remission off therapy, which remained at 9 months. No serious adverse events occurred during 35 months of follow-up. Serum veltuzumab levels were 22 and 29 μg/mL 2 weeks after the first dose of each cycle, and the drug remained detectable in the serum for longer than 3 months. Relapse and response to veltuzumab generally correlated with desmoglein 3 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay index values. Shortly after a relapse that occurred after a long-term remission, the patient demonstrated an elevated naive (CD19+CD27−) to memory (CD19+CD27+) B-cell ratio of 19.5 and transitional (CD19+CD24+CD38+) B-cell frequency of 12.5%.
Conclusions and Relevance
Subcutaneous veltuzumab may be a safe, effective, and more economical alternative to intravenous rituximab for PV therapy. Clinical trials of subcutaneous veltuzumab for PV are warranted.