Trial of intrathecal rituximab in progressive multiple sclerosis patients with evidence of leptomeningeal contrast enhancement

Pavan Bhargava, Cassie Wicken, Matthew D. Smith, Roy E. Strowd, Irene Cortese, Daniel S. Reich, Peter Calabresi, Ellen Mahar Mowry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Leptomeningeal inflammation is associated with increased cortical damage and worse clinical outcomes in MS. It may be detected on contrast-enhanced T2-FLAIR imaging as focal leptomeningeal contrast-enhancement (LME). Objective: To assess the safety of intrathecal (IT) rituximab in progressive MS (PMS) and to assess its effects on LME and CSF biomarkers. Methods: PMS patients had a screening MRI to detect LME. Participants satisfying eligibility criteria underwent two IT administrations of 25 mg rituximab 2 weeks apart. Follow-up lumbar puncture and MRI were performed at 8 and 24 weeks after the first treatment. Results: Of 36 patients screened 15 had LME, 11 consented, and 8 received study treatment. Mean age was 56.7 years and number of LME lesions ranged from 1 to 3. No serious adverse effects occurred. We noted profound reductions in peripheral B cells from baseline to week 2 and 8 with some return at week 24. We also observed transient reductions in CSF B cells and CXCL-13 levels with an increase in BAFF levels. However, the number of LME did not change following treatment. Conclusions: IT rituximab was well tolerated in PMS patients and had transient effects on CSF biomarkers but did not change LME.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-140
Number of pages5
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
StatePublished - May 1 2019



  • Clinical trial
  • Intrathecal rituximab
  • Leptomeningeal inflammation
  • Progressive multiple sclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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