The effect of methotrexate on tumour necrosis factor concentrations in etanercept-treated rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Recently, we demonstrated that early low concentrations of circulating, adalimumab-bound TNF in RA patients treated with adalimumab was associated with future anti-drug antibody formation. Furthermore, low TNF was associated with less frequent baseline MTX use. This is remarkable, because of the anti-inflammatory effects of MTX and a potential inhibiting effect on cytokine production. We hypothesized an indirect effect of non-MTX use on low TNF concentrations via immunogenicity. To investigate the effect of MTX on TNF concentrations independent of anti-drug antibody formation, we measured TNF in RA patients treated with etanercept, a drug with low immunogenicity.TNF was quantified in 186 consecutive etanercept-treated RA patients at baseline and at weeks 4, 16 and 28. The dynamics of TNF during etanercept treatment were compared with dynamics recently published for adalimumab.We demonstrated that TNF concentrations at week 4 did not associate with baseline MTX or remission after 28 weeks. Furthermore, median (interquartile range) TNF increased from <112 (<112-<112) pg/ml at baseline to 548 (344-688) pg/ml at week 4 and remained stable at week 16 and 28 [598 (442-756) and 568 (444-755) pg/ml, respectively].Circulating TNF did not associate with MTX usage in etanercept-treated patients. This implies that MTX does not have a direct effect on TNF concentrations in circulation and that the association between early low TNF and non-use of MTX for adalimumab is thus most likely due to anti-drug antibody formation.

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