Background: Treatment goals for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) include minimising disease activity and reducing the risk of flares. Although belimumab is effective at reducing disease activity and risk of severe flares, it was previously unknown what the clinical effects were upon treatment discontinuation. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of temporary withdrawal of intravenous (IV) belimumab in patients with SLE. Methods: This multicentre, open-label, non-randomised, 52-week study (GSK Study BEL116027; NCT02119156) recruited patients with SLE and stable low disease activity, of whom those on belimumab 10 mg/kg IV plus standard therapy either discontinued belimumab for 24 weeks and then restarted belimumab 10 mg/kg IV every 4 weeks (q4w) for 28 weeks (treatment holiday [TH] group), or continued on belimumab 10 mg/kg IV plus standard therapy q4w for 52 weeks (treatment continuation [TC] group). The primary endpoint was median time to first Safety of Estrogens in Lupus Erythematosus National Assessment-SLE Disease Activity Index (SELENA-SLEDAI) Flare Index flare. Secondary and other endpoints included rate of any flare, time to severe flare, time to renal flare and rebound (SELENA-SLEDAI score exceeding parent study baseline). Data on rebound phenomenon in patients with any disease level of SLE who had permanently withdrawn from further belimumab treatment (long-term discontinuation group [LTD]) were also assessed. Safety was assessed. Results: The primary endpoint was not evaluable in the TH (n = 12) and TC (n = 29) groups as fewer than half of patients flared. Unadjusted flare rates per patient-year were 1.0 during treatment discontinuation and 0.3 during treatment restart (0.6 overall) in the TH group and 0.6 in the TC group; there were no severe or renal flares. No TH patients rebounded; 2 (6.9%) TC patients rebounded; 2 (5.1%) patients in the LTD group rebounded. There were no new safety signals. Conclusions: Twenty-four-week belimumab discontinuation did not appear to increase the risk of flares or rebound in patients with low SLE disease activity; flare rates were low in both groups. Further studies may help to fully determine the effect of belimumab discontinuation. Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02119156. Registered on April 21, 2014.
- B cells
- Biological therapies
- Systemic lupus erythematosus and autoimmunity