The Effectiveness and Safety of Biological Therapeutics in Juvenile-Onset Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (JSLE): A Systematic Review

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Objective: To systematically review and summarize the available literature regarding the effectiveness and safety of biologics in the treatment of juvenile-onset systemic lupus erythematosus. Methods: PubMed was systematically searched for relevant literature (2012–2017 inclusive) using the following criteria: (1) patients diagnosed with juvenile-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (≤18 years at diagnosis); (2) treatment with any biological agent; and (3) outcome measures assessing effectiveness and safety. Systematic literature reviews, meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, case control studies, cross sectional surveys and case-series with ≥3 patients were included. Independent extraction of articles by two authors using predefined criteria was performed. The quality of each study was assessed using CASP tools and Oxford CEBM Levels of Evidence. Results: Nine articles met inclusion criteria: six cohort studies, two case series and one pilot study, totalling 230 patients. All but one article reported the effects of rituximab, the other those of belimumab. Overall, patients had active disease refractory to standard of care regimens using corticosteroids and immunosuppressants. Available evidence for rituximab demonstrated improvements in disease activity, complement levels and anti-dsDNA titres accompanying a steroid-sparing effect. Conclusion: Rituximab can be considered an effective treatment in juvenile-onset systemic lupus erythematosus patients with severe disease manifestations and/or refractory disease. Based on current evidence, use of belimumab in juvenile-onset systemic lupus erythematosus patients cannot be recommended. The long-term safety of these biological agents remains uncertain. Further prospective studies, ideally robust randomized controlled trials, are urgently needed to obtain more accurate data on the effectiveness and long-term safety of rituximab, belimumab and other biologics in juvenile-onset systemic lupus erythematosus.