BACKGROUND: Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is the most catastrophic form of heterotopic ossification, due to ongoing intracellular signaling through the bone morphogenic protein pathway. The paroxysmal appearance of inflammatory lumps and elevated inflammatory markers during flares, suggest that FOP is an auto-inflammatory disease. Based on evidence, demonstrating a role for interleukin-1β (IL-1β) in other forms of heterotopic ossification, we hypothesized that treating FOP patients with anti-IL-1 agents could help lower the rate of FOP paroxysms and/or limit the symptoms and residual lesions.
CASE PRESENTATION: A 13.5-year-old Arab boy was diagnosed with FOP. Treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs did not change the disease course. New lumps appeared in a rate of approximately one every 8 days. Treatment with the anti-IL-1 agents anakinra and canakinumab resulted in significantly lower rate of paroxysms (every 22-25 days, of which almost all involved only 2 existing lumps), as well as shorter duration. High levels of IL-1β were found in the patient's plasma samples, collected during a paroxysm that appeared 8 weeks after the last canakinumab dose. In contrast, IL-1β plasma levels were undetectable in the previous three plasma samples, obtained while he was treated with anti-IL-1 agents.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data demonstrate the efficacy of anti-IL-1 agents in the treatment of a patient with FOP. Results showing the marked increase in IL-1β plasma levels during a paroxysm support a role for IL-1β in the pathogenesis of FOP and further provide the rationale for the use of anti-IL-1 agents in FOP treatment.