Introduction: The clinical characteristics of autoantibodymediated autoimmune diseases are diverse. Yet, medical treatment and the associated complications are similar, that is, the occurrence of long-term side effects and the problem that a significant proportion of patients are non-responders. Therefore, new therapeutic options are needed. Bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor, is effective in the treatment of multiple myeloma and data from experimental models and case reports suggest an effect in the treatment of autoantibody-mediated autoimmunity. In our study, we will determine the effect of bortezomib treatment on a shared surrogate parameter for clinical efficacy, namely change in autoantibody levels, which we chose as primary parameter.
Methods and analysis: We designed a phase IIa trial with altogether n=18 treatment-refractory patients suffering from myasthenia gravis, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis that will be treated with bortezomib add-on to pre-existing therapy. Primary endpoint is the change in autoantibody levels 6 months after therapy. Secondary endpoints include concomitant medication, disease-specific clinical scores and measures of quality of life and activities of daily living.
Ethics and dissemination: Safety parameters include neurophysiological and clinical signs of peripheral neuropathy as well as potential central nervous system side effects determined by olfactory and neuropsychological testing. The study has been approved by the local ethical committee and first participants have already been enrolled. This proof of concept study will contribute to improve our understanding of plasma cellspecific treatment approaches by assessing its safety and efficacy in reducing serum levels of antibodies known to mediate autoimmune disorders. We plan to publish the final results of our study in a peer reviewed journal and to present our findings at international conferences. Trial registration number: NCT02102594.