RANKL is essential for osteoclast development, activation, and survival. Denosumab is a fully human monoclonal IgG2 antibody that binds RANKL, inhibiting its activity. The aim of this multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase II study was to evaluate the effects of denosumab on structural damage in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) receiving methotrexate treatment.


RA patients received subcutaneous placebo (n = 75), denosumab 60 mg (n = 71), or denosumab 180 mg (n = 72) injections every 6 months for 12 months. The primary end point was the change from baseline in the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) erosion score at 6 months.


At 6 months, the increase in the MRI erosion score from baseline was lower in the 60-mg denosumab group (mean change 0.13; P = 0.118) and significantly lower in the 180-mg denosumab group (mean change 0.06; P = 0.007) than in the placebo group (mean change 1.75). A significant difference in the modified Sharp erosion score was observed as early as 6 months in the 180-mg denosumab group (P = 0.019) as compared with placebo, and at 12 months, both the 60-mg (P = 0.012) and the 180-mg (P = 0.007) denosumab groups were significantly different from the placebo group. Denosumab caused sustained suppression of markers of bone turnover. There was no evidence of an effect of denosumab on joint space narrowing or on measures of RA disease activity. Rates of adverse events were comparable between the denosumab and placebo groups.


Addition of twice-yearly injections of denosumab to ongoing methotrexate treatment inhibited structural damage in patients with RA for up to 12 months, with no increase in the rates of adverse events as compared with placebo.