OBJECTIVE: To determine the relationship between changes in antibody levels towards citrullinated peptides derived from different candidate autoantigens and therapeutic outcome in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
METHODS: Baseline and 3-month serum samples from 316 patients with early RA enrolled in the Swedish Farmacotherapy (SWEFOT) trial were analysed for antibodies against cyclic citrullinated peptides (CCP) and citrullinated peptides derived from vimentin (cVim), fibrinogen (cFib) and α-enolase (CEP-1). At 3-month follow-up, methotrexate monotherapy-inadequate responders were randomised to add-on therapy with sulfasalazine and hydroxychloroquine or infliximab. In these patients, anticitrullinated peptide antibodies (ACPA) were also assessed at 12 and 24 months. The proportion of antibody-positive patients and relative changes in antibody levels were compared across ACPA specificities and related to therapeutic response and radiographic progression.
RESULTS: During the 2-year follow-up, the proportion of patients testing positive declined significantly regarding antibodies to cVim, cFib and CEP-1, while anti-CCP antibody occurrence remained stable over time. Turning anti-cVim antibody negative was most common, and anti-cVim antibody seroreversion during the first three months associated with significantly less 2-year radiographic progression compared with patients who remained positive. Median antibody levels of all tested ACPAs declined uniformly during initial methotrexate therapy and following response to add-on therapy, with no significant relation to treatment regimen or radiographic progression.
CONCLUSIONS: The influence of early antirheumatic therapy on ACPA seroreversions was markedly different across specificities, and early disappearance of anti-cVim antibodies associated with better radiological outcome. Thus, these data suggest that the disappearance of particular ACPA reactivities may be beneficial in early RA.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: WHO database at the Karolinska institute: CT20080004; and clinicaltrials.gov: NCT00764725.