Rituxan® (rituximab)

Experimental Medications: Monoclonal Antibodies

Company: Genentech/Roche

  • Given via IV infusion
  • Being studied in RMS

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Rituxan is a monoclonal antibody that binds to a receptor, known as CD20, on the surface of B cells. These cells are then destroyed, and their levels in the circulation are decreased. Rituxan is approved for use in the treatment of lymphomas, leukemias, and autoimmune disorders. It is not approved by the FDA for use in MS, but many neurologists prescribe it for that purpose.

A recent analysis of electronic medical records found no increased risk of cancer with several disease-modifying therapies (DMTs), including Rituxan. The impact of DMTs on cancer incidence is a concern because the medications suppress the immune system to counteract the abnormal inflammatory immune response that harms the nervous system in MS. This immunosuppression, however, can increase the risk of cancer.64

A total of 4,340 people with MS who received Rituxan were identified from the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health system’s electronic records and the Swedish National Cancer Registry. Seven women (0.2%) had breast cancer, translating to a breast cancer rate of 1.2 per 1,000 person years. Breast cancer rates were similar among women taking other DMTs, and in a comparison group of women without MS, suggesting a low risk of cancer with these medications.65

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