Depletion of normal B cells with rituximab as an adjunct to IL-2 therapy for renal cell carcinoma and melanoma

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BackgroundWe postulated that in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) or melanoma, depletion of normal B cells using the anti-CD20 mAb rituximab before treatment with low-dose interleukin (IL)-2 would improve clinical outcome.Patients and methodsRituximab (375 mg/m2) weekly for 4 weeks. IL-2 [11 (million units) daily] s.c., 4 days a week for weeks 5–8, followed by a 2-week rest (weeks 9 and 10). Patients without disease progression continued on IL-2. Disease re-evaluation was performed after rituximab and after every course of IL-2.ResultsFifteen patients with RCC and six with melanoma were enrolled. One patient had a partial response and seven patients had stable disease. Toxicities were similar to those expected with IL-2 alone, and there were no grade 4 events. Circulating B cells were depleted in all patients. The subsequent low-dose IL-2 increased absolute numbers of natural killer cells, activated CD4* and activated CD8* T cells. Expanded T cells produced interferon-γ, but not IL-4. Proliferation of peripheral blood lymphocytes to phytohemagglutinin was diminished following rituximab treatment, suggesting that B cells participate in this response in vitro.ConclusionsOur results suggest that depletion of circulating B cells with rituximab does not increase the response rate, alter the toxicity profile or change the biological activity in response to low-dose IL-2 in patients with RCC or melanoma.

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