Brief Report: Drug-Free Long-Term Remission in Severe Behçet's Disease Following Withdrawal of Successful Anti-Tumor Necrosis Factor Treatment.
To test the hypothesis that remission of Behçet's disease (BD) in patients with severe vital organ involvement is maintained after withdrawal of successful anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) treatment.METHODS
This single-center, retrospective, longitudinal outcomes study focused on consecutive patients with disease refractory to treatment with conventional immunosuppressant agents who responded to add-on long-term anti-TNF treatment that was subsequently discontinued. The end point was the proportion of patients remaining in complete remission for at least 3 years after withdrawal of anti-TNF treatment.RESULTS
In our BD cohort comprising 87 patients, 29 were eligible for analysis. All of these patients had disease that was refractory to conventional immunosuppressive therapy and had received successful anti-TNF treatment for a median of 2 years (interquartile range [IQR] 1.1-2.0) before treatment discontinuation. Of these patients, 12 (41%) achieved the study end point. The remaining 17 patients experienced a relapse within 1 year (IQR 0.6-1.5) after discontinuation. Re-treatment with anti-TNF was safe and effective in 14 (82%) of 17 patients; so far, 4 of these patients also achieved the study end point. Overall, 16 patients have remained in complete remission (median 6.5 years [IQR 5.5-8]). Ten of these patients are in drug-free remission (treated with anti-TNF agents, mainly for sight-threatening disease), and 6 are in azathioprine-maintained remission (treated with anti-TNF agents for ocular, intestinal, or central nervous system involvement). Notably, patients in drug-free remission were significantly younger and had a significantly shorter duration of BD when anti-TNF treatment was initiated compared to patients receiving azathioprine maintenance treatment.CONCLUSION
Drug-free, long-term remission after withdrawal of successful anti-TNF treatment is feasible in patients with severe BD. Because an anti-TNF agent-induced "cure" cannot be differentiated from spontaneous remission by natural history, prospective studies should examine whether anti-TNF agents should be used as first-line treatment for the induction of remission in every patient with vital organ involvement.