Did you know that if you are a large person standard dose ocrelizumab is not as effective as it is in a small person?
When looking at the efficacy of anti-CD20 therapies such as ocrelizumab you shouldn’t bother looking at relapses and focal MRI activity (Gd-enhancing lesions or new T2 lesions) when comparing effectiveness between doses and competing products. Relapses and MRI lesions are ultrasensitive to the effects of anti-CD20 therapies and are suppressed, to almost zero, at relatively low doses. In scientific measurement-speak we refer to this as a floor effect; in other words, you can’t go lower than zero or near-zero.
However, when you look at disability progression (the real MS) there is clearly a dose effect, i.e. the higher the dose of ocrelizumab relative to body size, the greater the B-cell depletion and the less likely you are to progress. Most commentators miss this insight and are lulled into a false sense of security by seeing the relapse and MRI data when the real MS may be smouldering away and shredding your brain unabated.
For this reason, we really need to do studies with higher doses of ocrelizumab and almost certainly higher doses of rituximab and ofatumumab. The observation that rituximab, at relatively low doses, doesn’t prevent the majority of pwMS becoming secondary progress is not surprising when it seems we need more intensive and not less intensive B-cell depletion.
There are two hypotheses that could explain the dose-effect of ocrelizumab: (1) CNS penetration and the need to scrub the brain free of B-cells, or (2) really deep tissue B-cell depletion. Higher doses of ocrelizumab may achieve both of these. The real question is what is it about B-cells that is driving MS?
Those of you who are up to speed with safety and vaccine readiness data will argue that higher dose ocrelizumab will come with a price. Yes and no. Until we do the studies we won’t know. In relation to vaccine responses, I suspect there will be little difference between low and high dose ocrelizumab as both will almost certainly ablate germinal centre function.
In terms of long-term safety, I suspect we may not need to use high-dose or very high-dose anti-CD20 therapy long term; we may get away with using it as an induction therapy followed by a maintenance therapy.
Does this have implications for you as an individual? Yes, don’t accept your neurologist saying your disease is under control simply because you are relapse and MRI activity free; remember smouldering MS is the real disease. There are now compelling reasons why we need to do the double-dose ocrelizumab trial or DODO study and other add-on studies to target smouldering MS. Do you agree?
#T4TD = Thought for the Day