The expanding spectrum of targeted therapies for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) implies a need for development of precision tools for disease assessment reflecting pathobiologic processes. Type IV collagen is an abundant protein of basement membranes, but is also present in the intercellular matrix of the synovial lining layer. We aimed to investigate the association of type IV collagen turnover with RA disease activity, response to IL-6 inhibition and radiographic progression.

C4M, a serologic marker of type IV collagen metabolism, was measured at baseline and at follow-up in serum samples of RA patients participating in the phase III studies LITHE (n=687) and RADIATE (n=217). Both were double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trials testing the safety and efficacy of 4 and 8 mg/kg tocilizumab (TCZ) in combination with methotrexate (MTX) vs. MTX plus placebo. Associations with disease activity, radiographic severity and ACR response were investigated.

Baseline C4M correlated significantly with clinical disease parameters in both study populations, including DAS28, HAQ score and VASpain (all p<0.00001). C4M at baseline correlated significantly with change in JSN (p=0.001) and Sharp score (p=0.00002) at 52 weeks. TCZ lowered C4M by 11-40% in a dose dependent manner. The likelihood of achieving an ACR20 response by week 16 was associated with C4M suppression exceeding the median decrease at week 4 (p<0.0001).

Type IV collagen remodelling was associated with disease activity and radiographic progression in RA and was persistently and dose-dependently suppressed by TCZ. These findings indicate that C4M may serve as a plausible biologic marker of destructive synovitis growth in RA.