Research ArticleRheumatoid Arthritis

Citrullinated peptide dendritic cell immunotherapy in HLA risk genotype–positive rheumatoid arthritis patients

Science Translational Medicine  03 Jun 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 290, pp. 290ra87
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa9301

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Abstract

In animals, immunomodulatory dendritic cells (DCs) exposed to autoantigen can suppress experimental arthritis in an antigen-specific manner. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), disease-specific anti–citrullinated peptide autoantibodies (ACPA or anti-CCP) are found in the serum of about 70% of RA patients and are strongly associated with HLA-DRB1 risk alleles. This study aimed to explore the safety and biological and clinical effects of autologous DCs modified with a nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) inhibitor exposed to four citrullinated peptide antigens, designated “Rheumavax,” in a single-center, open-labeled, first-in-human phase 1 trial. Rheumavax was administered once intradermally at two progressive dose levels to 18 human leukocyte antigen (HLA) risk genotype–positive RA patients with citrullinated peptide–specific autoimmunity. Sixteen RA patients served as controls. Rheumavax was well tolerated: adverse events were grade 1 (of 4) severity. At 1 month after treatment, we observed a reduction in effector T cells and an increased ratio of regulatory to effector T cells; a reduction in serum interleukin-15 (IL-15), IL-29, CX3CL1, and CXCL11; and reduced T cell IL-6 responses to vimentin447–455–Cit450 relative to controls. Rheumavax did not induce disease flares in patients recruited with minimal disease activity, and DAS28 decreased within 1 month in Rheumavax-treated patients with active disease. This exploratory study demonstrates safety and biological activity of a single intradermal injection of autologous modified DCs exposed to citrullinated peptides, and provides rationale for further studies to assess clinical efficacy and antigen-specific effects of autoantigen immunomodulatory therapy in RA.

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