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Friday 01 November 2002

Mechanism of action of rituximab.

By: Cerny T, Borisch B, Introna M, Johnson P, Rose AL.

Anticancer Drugs 2002 Nov;13 Suppl 2:S3-10

Rituximab, the humanized chimeric anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, represents a powerful tool for treating B-cell malignancies and is licensed for the treatment of relapsed or chemorefractory low-grade or follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). It has a unique mode of action and can induce killing of CD20+ cells via multiple mechanisms.The direct effects of rituximab include complement-mediated cytotoxicity and antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity, and the indirect effects include structural changes, apoptosis, and sensitization of cancer cells to chemotherapy. In vitro studies have made a significant contribution to the understanding of these mechanisms of action and have led to the development of innovative and effective treatment strategies to optimize patient response. The most significant of these strategies is the combination of rituximab and CHOP chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine and prednisone), which is proving a highly effective combination in the treatment of NHL. However, all patients do not respond equally well to rituximab, and in vitro studies have identified a possible mechanism of resistance involving the anti-complement inhibitors CD55 and CD59. Neutralizing antibodies to CD55 and CD59 can overcome resistance to rituximab-mediated complement-mediated cytotoxicity in vitro. This paper overviews our understanding of the mechanisms of action of rituximab and identifies how this knowledge could be applied in a clinical setting to maximize response in both sensitive and resistant patients.

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