Tocilizumab for the treatment of large-vessel vasculitis (giant cell arteritis, Takayasu arteritis) and polymyalgia rheumatica




The interleukin-6 pathway is up-regulated in giant cell arteritis (GCA), Takayasu arteritis (TA), and polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). We retrospectively assessed the outcomes of 10 patients with relapsing/refractory GCA, TA, or PMR treated with tocilizumab (TCZ).


Patients with GCA (n = 7), TA (n = 2), and PMR (n = 1) received TCZ. Seven subjects had failed at least 1 second-line agent. The outcomes evaluated were symptoms of disease activity, inflammatory markers, ability to taper glucocorticoids, and cross-sectional imaging when indicated clinically.


The mean followup time of this cohort since diagnosis was 27 months (range 16–60 months). The patients were treated with TCZ for a mean period of 7.8 months (range 4–12 months). Before TCZ therapy, the patients experienced an average of 2.4 flares/year. All patients entered and maintained clinical remission during TCZ therapy. The mean daily prednisone dosages before and after TCZ initiation were 20.8 mg/day (range 7–34.3 mg/day) and 4.1 mg/day (range 0–10.7 mg/day), respectively (P = 0.0001). The mean erythrocyte sedimentation rate declined from 41.5 mm/hour (range 11–68 mm/hour) to 7 mm/hour (range 2.2–11.3 mm/hour; P = 0.0001). The adverse effects of TCZ included mild neutropenia (n = 4) and transaminitis (n = 4). One patient flared 2 months after TCZ discontinuation. An autopsy on 1 patient who died from a postoperative myocardial infarction following elective surgery revealed persistent vasculitis of large and medium-sized arteries.


TCZ therapy led to clinical and serologic improvement in patients with refractory/relapsing GCA, TA, or PMR. The demonstration of persistent large-vessel vasculitis at autopsy of 1 patient who had shown a substantial response requires close scrutiny in larger studies.