Treatment with CTLA-4Ig blocks T cell activation and is clinically effective in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, it is unknown if specific CD4+ T cell subsets in blood at baseline predict remission after CTLA-4Ig, or other biological treatments with different modes of action, and how treatment affects CD4+ T cells in patients with untreated early RA (eRA).This study included 60 patients with untreated eRA from a larger randomised trial. They were treated with methotrexate combined with CTLA-4Ig (abatacept, n = 17), anti-IL6 receptor (tocilizumab, n = 21) or anti-TNF (certolizumab-pegol, n = 22). Disease activity was assessed by clinical disease activity index (CDAI), DAS28, swollen joint counts, tender joint counts, CRP and ESR. The primary outcome was CDAI remission (CDAI ≤ 2.8) at week 24. Proportions of 12 CD4+ T cell subsets were measured by flow cytometry at baseline and after 4, 12 and 24 weeks of treatment.In patients treated with CTLA-4Ig, the proportions of PD-1+TFh and CTLA-4+ conventional CD4+ T cells at baseline predicted CDAI remission at week 24. CD4+ T cell subset proportions could not predict remission after treatment with anti-IL6R or anti-TNF. The percentage of regulatory T cells (Tregs) expressing CTLA-4 decreased in all treatment arms by 24 weeks, but only CTLA-4Ig treatment significantly reduced the proportions of Tregs and PD-1+T follicular helper (TFh) cells.These findings indicate that circulating proportions PD-1+TFh and CTLA-4+ conventional CD4+ T cells at baseline may serve as predictive biomarkers for remission in early RA after CTLA-4Ig treatment.
Jonathan Aldridge, Kerstin Andersson, Inger Gjertsson, Anna-Karin Hultgård Ekwall, Magnus Hallström, Ronald van Vollenhoven, Anna-Carin Lundell, Anna Rudin