The evidence for biologic immunotherapy in Sarcoidosis: A systematic review

Pooja Shah, Katie Bechman, James Galloway


Sarcoidosis is a chronic inflammatory disease with a myriad of clinical manifestations. Treatment involves immunosuppression with corticosteroids or steroid-sparing agents. A proportion of patients does not respond to or are intolerant to therapy. Targeted immunotherapy with biologic agents has emerged as a novel approach with plausible mechanistic reasons to warrant study.

The aim of this review was to evaluate the evidence for the efficacy of biological therapy in sarcoidosis.

We conducted a systematic literature review and meta-analysis of all published randomised-controlled trials (RCT) evaluating biological therapy in sarcoidosis, using MEDLINE and Embase databases, through to September 2017. The search terms included sarcoidosis, infliximab, adalimumab, etanercept, golimumab, certolizumab, rituximab, abatacept, tocilizumab, anakinra, ustekinumab, secukinumab. Only articles reporting RCTs were selected. Improvements in respiratory disease were assessed by changes in forced vital capacity (FVC) by weighted mean difference (WMD). There were insufficient data on outcome measures in other organ systems to comparatively assess efficacy.

The search identified 2,324 studies of which only 5 provided relevant and original data. This comprised a total of 364 patients, evaluating pulmonary, cutaneous and ocular sarcoidosis. One study in pulmonary disease and one study in cutaneous disease demonstrated improvements in the primary outcome. In pulmonary disease, meta-analysis of the treatment effect of anti-TNF therapy versus placebo on FVC revealed a WMD of 1.69 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval, 1.44–1.94).

There are insufficient data to suggest the long-term efficacy of anti-TNFα inhibitors in the treatment of sarcoidosis. This may be due to heterogeneity, small sample sizes and the lack of consistent reporting of outcome measures.
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