Alemtuzumab-Induced Thyroid Dysfunction Exhibits Distinctive Clinical and Immunological Features.


CONTEXT: Alemtuzumab, a highly effective treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS), predisposes to Graves disease (GD), with a reportedly indolent course. OBJECTIVE: To determine the type, frequency, and course of thyroid dysfunction (TD) in a cohort of alemtuzumab-treated patients with MS in the United Kingdom. DESIGN: Case records of alemtuzumab-treated patients who developed TD were reviewed. RESULTS: A total of 41.1% (102 out of 248; 80 female and 22 male) of patients developed TD, principally GD (71.6%). Median onset was 17 months (range 2 to 107) following the last dose, with the majority (89%) within 3 years. Follow-up data (range 6 to 251 months) were available in 71 case subjects, of whom 52 (73.2%) developed GD: 10 of these (19.2%) had fluctuating TD. All 52 patients with GD commenced antithyroid drugs (ATDs): 3 required radioiodine (RAI) due to ATD side effects, and drug therapy is ongoing in 2; of those who completed a course, 16 are in remission, 1 developed spontaneous hypothyroidism, and 30 (64%) required definitive or long-term treatment (RAI, n = 17; thyroidectomy, n = 5; and long-term ATDs, n = 8). Three cases of thyroiditis and 16 cases of hypothyroidism were documented: 5 with antithyroid peroxidase antibody positivity only, 10 with positive TSH receptor antibody (TRAb), and 1 of uncertain etiology. Bioassay confirmed both stimulating and blocking TRAb in a subset of fluctuating GD cases. CONCLUSIONS: Contrary to published literature, we recorded frequent occurrence of GD that required definitive or prolonged ATD treatment. Furthermore, fluctuating thyroid status in GD and unexpectedly high frequency of TRAb-positive hypothyroidism suggested changing activity of TRAb in this clinical context; we have documented the existence of both blocking and stimulating TRAb in these patients.