Discoid lupus erythematosus is a chronic inflammatory condition in which the pathogenesis and the role of cell-mediated immunity remains unclear. Currently, the most effective treatments for severe disease are thalidomide, methotrexate, and cyclosporin, although the evidence for this is limited. Efalizumab is a monoclonal antibody directed against CD11a, the α-subunit of the leukocyte-functioning antigen 1, with a current license for use in psoriasis. Because discoid lupus erythematosus is known to be predominantly T-cell mediated, our aim was to use efalizumab as a T-cell modulator in patients with recalcitrant disease.
Thirteen patients received efalizumab, with treatment responses varying from good to excellent in 12 of 13 patients. There was a significant reduction in the cutaneous lupus activity and severity score (CLASS) score after therapy with efalizumab (P = .002).
We have presented efalizumab as a novel alternative treatment for patients with difficult discoid lupus erythematosus. The response to treatment in 12 patients was very encouraging, with the mean time to response being 5.5 weeks. However, patient numbers were small, and many remain in the early stages of therapy. A prospective randomized study with a long-term follow-up is required, especially in light of recent findings to evaluate both the effectiveness and safety profile of this monoclonal antibody.