Objective. Periarticular osteoporosis is one of the earliest radiographic signs of bone damage in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Denosumab, an investigational fully human monoclonal antibody that binds to RANKL, inhibits bone erosion and systemic bone loss in clinical studies of patients with RA. In this hand bone mineral density (BMD) substudy, we investigated the effects of denosumab on hand BMD and its correlation with hand erosion scores. Methods. Patients receiving methotrexate for erosive RA were randomized in a 1:1:1 ratio to receive subcutaneous placebo, denosumab 60 mg, or denosumab 180 mg at 0 and 6 months. Measurements included BMD (by dual x-ray absorptiometry [DXA]) of both hands (0, 1, 6, and 12 months), magnetic resonance images of the hands/wrists (0 and 6 months), and radiographs of the hands/wrists and feet (0, 6, and 12 months). Results. There were 56 patients (13 placebo, 21 denosumab 60 mg, and 22 denosumab 180 mg). Mean changes in hand BMD at 6 and 12 months were: +0.8% and +1.0%, respectively, for denosumab 60 mg; +2.0% and +2.5%, respectively, for denosumab 180 mg; and -1.2% and -2.0%, respectively, for placebo. Erosion scores remained near baseline in the denosumab groups and increased from baseline in the placebo group. A negative correlation was observed between hand BMD and erosion scores. Conclusion. In patients with RA, denosumab provided protection against erosion, and not only prevented bone loss but increased hand BMD as measured by DXA.
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