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The role of rituximab in adult's warm antibody autoimmune hemolytic anemia

Daan Dierickx, Alain Kentos and André Delannoy

Abstract

Warm antibody hemolytic anemia is the most common form of autoimmune hemolytic anemia. When therapy is needed, corticosteroids remain the cornerstone of initial treatment but are able to cure only a minority of patients (less than 20%). Splenectomy is usually proposed when a second-line therapy is needed. This classical approach is now challenged by the use of rituximab both as second-line and as first-line therapy. Second-line treatment with rituximab leads to response rates similar to splenectomy (about 70%) but rituximab-induced responses seem less sustained. However, additional courses of rituximab are most often followed by responses, at the price of reasonable toxicity. In some major European centers, rituximab is now the preferred second-line therapy of warm antibody hemolytic anemia in adults, although no prospective study convincingly supports this attitude. A recent randomized study strongly suggests that in first-line treatment, rituximab combined with steroids is superior to monotherapy with steroids. If this finding is confirmed rituximab will emerge as a major component of the management of warm antibody hemolytic anemia not only after relapse but as soon as treatment is needed.

  • Submitted January 6, 2015.
  • Accepted March 27, 2015.