Con: Cyclophosphamide for the treatment of lupus nephritis

Chi Chiu Mok
Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation 2016, 31 (7): 1053-7
Kidney involvement is a major determinant for morbidity and mortality in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. The treatment target of lupus renal disease is to induce and maintain remission and to minimize disease or treatment-related comorbidities. Cyclophosphamide (CYC), in conjunction with glucocorticoids, has conventionally been used for the initial treatment of lupus nephritis. However, the major concerns of CYC are its toxicities, such as infertility, urotoxicity and oncogenicity, which are particularly relevant in women of childbearing age. As a result, maintenance therapy of lupus nephritis with an extended course of CYC pulses has largely been replaced by other immunosuppressive agents such as mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) and azathioprine. Recent randomized controlled trials have demonstrated non-inferiority of MMF to pulse CYC as induction therapy of lupus nephritis. Although MMF as induction-maintenance therapy has been increasingly used in lupus nephritis, its efficacy in the long-term preservation of renal function remains to be elucidated. MMF is not necessarily less toxic than CYC. Meta-analyses of clinical trials show similar incidence of infective complications and gastrointestinal adverse events in both MMF- and CYC-based regimens. However, considering the reduction in gonadal toxicity and the risk of oncogenicity, MMF may be used as first-line therapy of lupus nephritis. Tacrolimus (TAC) has recently been shown to be equivalent to either MMF or CYC for inducing remission of lupus nephritis and may be considered as another non-CYC alternative. Combined low-dose MMF and TAC appears to be more effective than CYC pulses in Chinese patients with lupus nephritis and has the potential to replace the more toxic CYC regimens in high-risk patients. Currently, CYC still plays an important role in the management of lupus nephritis patients with impaired or rapidly deteriorating renal function, crescentic glomerulonephritis or as salvage therapy for recalcitrant disease.

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