Rituximab for rapidly progressive juvenile systemic sclerosis.

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Juvenile systemic sclerosis (JSSc) with rapidly progressive course is a life-threatening condition associated with a poor prognosis. Recently, rituximab (RTX) has been shown to be a promising treatment for adult patients with SSc. We present a series of four patients with rapidly progressive JSSc successfully treated with RTX.Clinical, laboratory and functional parameters were collected from four patients with rapidly progressive JSSc treated with RTX for at least 1 year. All patients underwent four yearly courses of i.v. RTX 375 mg/m2 on day 0 and 14, at 3-month intervals. Low dose oral prednisone and MMF were also administered. Data were recorded at baseline and every 6 months and included pulmonary and myocardial function parameters, muscular, vascular and skin changes. The Juvenile Systemic Sclerosis Severity Score (J4S) estimated the overall disease severity over time.Four patients (three males, one female), aged 8-17 years, entered the study. Three patients presented with prevalent cardiac involvement, one with severe pulmonary involvement. After 1 year of RTX treatment, all patients showed significant improvement of J4S, Raynaud's phenomenon and cutaneous involvement. Among those with prevalent cardiac involvement, two showed an improvement of the myocardial function (left ventricular ejection fraction [EF] +37% and +19%, respectively) and in the third arrhythmias disappeared. The patient with severe pulmonary involvement showed a significant improvement of the respiratory function (forced vital capacity +46%, forced expiratory volume in 1 s +33%, diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide [DLCO] +30%). No major side effects were reported.Our data suggest that a combination of RTX and MMF is effective in arresting the rapid progression of JSSc.


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