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Phase 1-2 Pilot Study of Rituximab (Rituxan) in Refractory Myasthenia Gravis.

Phase 1/Phase 2
18 Years
80 Years
Not Enrolling
Refractory Myasthenia Gravis

Thank you

Trial Information

Phase 1-2 Pilot Study of Rituximab (Rituxan) in Refractory Myasthenia Gravis.

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an immune-mediated disorder of the neuromuscular junction
diagnosed on the basis of clinical, electrophysiological and serological features.
Cyclosporine as a disease-modifying therapy has been effective in a controlled study;
corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents such as azathioprine and cyclophosphamide,
plasmapheresis and intravenous human immune globulin have shown benefit in uncontrolled
trials. There are several drawbacks to currently used medical treatments, including serious
and debilitating side-effects, prohibitive costs, and the need for continuous or periodical
treatment. Almost 20-25% of patients with MG are unresponsive to commonly used therapies,
resulting in significant burden and economic loss. Rituximab is a chimeric anti-CD20
monoclonal antibody which produces a substantial reduction in circulating plasma cells
(CD19+) and B cells (CD20+) and provides targeted therapy for B-cell lymphomas. Recently,
rituximab has been found to be effective in several antibody-mediated autoimmune processes,
including immune thrombocytopenia, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, and IgM-related
polyneuropathies. There is preliminary evidence in the literature that treatment of MG
patients with rituximab is likely to be of benefit. These observations would strongly
suggest that rituximab might benefit refractory MG and needs further study.

Inclusion Criteria:

Criteria for patient selection will be based upon the recent recommendations for clinical
research standards by the Task Force of the Medical Scientific Advisory Board of the
Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America (Jaretzki et al, 2000).

Patients will be included in the trial based upon fulfilling all the criteria given below,
except that they will be required to fulfill criterion 3 OR 4:

1. Patients must have a diagnosis of "Definite" MG (Seybold, 1999) as based on clinical,
electrophysiological and serological criteria (Appendix 1)

2. Patients must have disease predominantly affecting bulbar or respiratory muscles of
moderate or severe degree (Osserman grades 2B, 3 without crisis, or 4 without crisis)
(Osserman and Genkins, 1971 and Appendix 2) as listed in Appendix 3, and a
Quantitative MG score of <25 (Appendix 7)

3. Patients must have disease refractory to treatment for at least 12 months with
prednisone at a dose of 15mg/day and/or immunosuppressive drugs (azathioprine or
cyclophosphamide at a dose of 100mg/day or cyclosporine at a dose to produce trough
levels of >50), with or without thymectomy and plasmapheresis/IVIG alone or in
combination with above drugs at intervals of no more than once every 3 weeks, OR

4. Patients must have experienced intolerance or unacceptable side-effects following
treatment with corticosteroids, immunosuppressive drugs (azathioprine,
cyclophosphamide or cyclosporine), plasmapheresis or IVIG

5. Patients must be between 18 years and 80 years old

6. Patients must have adequate organ function / laboratory parameters as measured by the
following criteria (values should be obtained within 2 weeks prior to enrollment):

- Documented CD20 + cells

- Absolute neutrophil count: >2000/mm3

- Platelets: >100,000/mm3

- Hemoglobin: >10 gm/dL

- Adequate renal function as indicated by normal BUN and creatinine levels

- Adequate liver function, as indicated by AST and ALT <2x Upper Limit of normal.

- Normal serum electrolytes

7. Men and women of reproductive potential must agree to use an acceptable method of
birth control during treatment and for one year after completion of treatment

8. Written informed consent.

Exclusion Criteria:

Patients will be excluded from the trial based on the following criteria:

1. Myasthenic crisis with a forced vital capacity (FVC) of <30% predicted, irrespective
of need for respiratory support, or severe bulbar involvement (Appendix 3)

2. Patients requiring maintenance plasmapheresis or IVIG infusions at intervals of less
than once every three weeks

3. Patients requiring respiratory support with invasive or non-invasive ventilation

4. Severe, uncontrolled or untreated concomitant cardiac (New York Heart Classification
III or IV disease), hepatic, pulmonary, renal, hematologic or psychiatric disease

5. Toxicity grade 2 or more prior to treatment with rituximab in patients who failed
prior treatments

6. Patients unwilling to attend for follow-up visits according to the study design

7. Patients will be excluded based on the following criteria:

- History of HIV disease

- Active Hepatitis B infection

- Pregnancy (a serum pregnancy test will be performed for all women of
childbearing potential immediately before treatment)

- Active infection

8. Pregnant or breastfeeding women may not participate due to the lack of information on
effects of rituximab on the fetus and developing child

9. Concomitant malignancies or previous malignancies within the last 5 years, with the
exception of adequately treated basal or squamous cell carcinoma of the skin or
carcinoma in situ of the cervix.

10. No prior monoclonal antibody therapy.

11. History of significant psychiatric disease that will interfere with the consenting
procedure, research visits, treatment protocol or evaluation of patients in the

Type of Study:


Study Design:

Allocation: Non-Randomized, Intervention Model: Single Group Assignment, Masking: Open Label, Primary Purpose: Treatment

Outcome Measure:

To examine the effects of rituximab on disease activity in MG patients with refractory disease.

Outcome Time Frame:

Patients will be followed for one year

Safety Issue:


Principal Investigator

Rup Tandan, MD, FRCP

Investigator Role:

Principal Investigator

Investigator Affiliation:

University of Vermont Department of Neurology


United States: Food and Drug Administration

Study ID:




Start Date:

April 2004

Completion Date:

March 2009

Related Keywords:

  • Refractory Myasthenia Gravis
  • Rituxan
  • Rituximab
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • MG
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Muscle Weakness



State University of New YorkBuffalo, New York  14203-1154
University of Vermont Department of NeurologyBurlington, Vermont  05405