Skin blistering diseases due to autoantibodies are typically treated with high dose systemic corticosteroids and other conventional immunosuppressants. However, in severe cases, this treatment may not be sufficient to achieve disease control or contraindicated because of comorbidity.
We describe 15 patients (pts.) with such diseases: 6 pts. with pemphigus vulgaris, 3 pts. with bullous pemphigoid, 3 pts. with mucous membrane pemphigoid (MMP), one being anti-laminin-332-MMP (AL332-MMP), 2 pts. with pemphigus foliaceus and 1 pt. with epidermolysis bullosa acquisita (EBA). Patients were treated with a combination of protein A immunoadsorption (PAIA, 3–21 treatments) and rituximab (3–6 treatments) in addition to low dose conventional immunosuppression.
All patients showed rapid clinical improvement starting within the first 4 weeks and decline of circulating autoantibody levels. Complete/partial remission was 88%/12% in pemphigus and 71%/29% in subepidermal blistering diseases. Overall relapse rate was 13% with an average follow-up of 22 months. In the AL332-MMP pt. the PAIA/rituximab treatment was stopped because of an oesophagus cancer considered as the paraneoplastic cause of the skin disease.
Combined treatment with PAIA and rituximab showed rapid and long-lasting response, thereby allowing substantial reduction of dosage of concomitant immunosuppressive medication. We hereby confirm data from other investigators that PAIA/rituximab treatment is a promising therapeutical modality for pemphigus, pemphigoids and EBA, characterized by a favourable ratio of beneficial efficacy and minimized long-term adverse effects.