Subgroup comparison according to clinical phenotype and serostatus in autoimmune encephalitis: a multicenter retrospective study

Cynthia Barilaro, Amelia Evoli, Danilo Zuliani, Gregorio Spagni, M Gastaldi, S Mariotto, M P Giannoccaro, R Iorio, M Zoccarato, M Nosadini, L Benedetti, S Casagrande, M Di Filippo, M Valeriani, S Ricci, S Bova, C Arbasino, M Mauri, M Versino, F VigevanoL Papetti, M Romoli, C Lapucci, F Massa, S Sartori, P De Gaspari, R Liguori, S Ferrari, E Marchioni, B Giometto, L Massacesi, D Franciotta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Abstract BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Autoimmune encephalitides (AE) include a spectrum of neurological disorders whose diagnosis revolves around the detection of neuronal antibodies (Abs). Consensus-based diagnostic criteria (AE-DC) allow clinic-serological subgrouping of AE, with unclear prognostic implications. The impact of AE-DC on patients' management was studied, focusing on the subgroup of Ab-negative-AE. METHODS: This was a retrospective multicenter study on patients fulfilling AE-DC. All patients underwent Ab testing with commercial cell-based assays (CBAs) and, when available, in-house assays (immunohistochemistry, live/fixed CBAs, neuronal cultures) that contributed to defining final categories. Patients were classified as Ab-positive-AE [N-methyl-d-aspartate-receptor encephalitis (NMDAR-E), Ab-positive limbic encephalitis (LE), definite-AE] or Ab-negative-AE (Ab-negative-LE, probable-AE, possible-AE). RESULTS: Commercial CBAs detected neuronal Abs in 70/118 (59.3%) patients. Testing 37/48 Ab-negative cases, in-house assays identified Abs in 11 patients (29.7%). A hundred and eighteen patients fulfilled the AE-DC, 81 (68.6%) with Ab-positive-AE (Ab-positive-LE, 40; NMDAR-E, 32; definite-AE, nine) and 37 (31.4%) with Ab-negative-AE (Ab-negative-LE, 17; probable/possible-AE, 20). Clinical phenotypes were similar in Ab-positive-LE versus Ab-negative-LE. Twenty-four/118 (20.3%) patients had tumors, and 19/118 (16.1%) relapsed, regardless of being Ab-positive or Ab-negative. Ab-positive-AE patients were treated earlier than Ab-negative-AE patients (P = 0.045), responded more frequently to treatments (92.3% vs. 65.6%, P < 0.001) and received second-line therapies more often (33.3% vs. 10.8%, P = 0.01). Delays in first-line therapy initiation were associated with poor response (P = 0.022; odds ratio 1.02; confidence interval 1.00-1.04). CONCLUSIONS: In-house diagnostics improved Ab detection allowing better patient management but was available in a patient subgroup only, implying possible Ab-positive-AE underestimation. Notwithstanding this limitation, our findings suggest that Ab-negative-AE and Ab-positive-AE patients share similar oncological profiles, warranting appropriate tumor screening. Ab-negative-AE patients risk worse responses due to delayed and less aggressive treatments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • diagnostic criteria
  • immunotherapy
  • neuronal antibodies

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