Rituximab is an effective treatment for lupus nephritis and allows a reduction in maintenance steroids.Nephrol Dial Transplant 2009; 24(12):3717-23ND
Lupus nephritis is a life-threatening complication of SLE. Treatment regimes include steroids and cyclophosphamide, both associated with significant morbidity. Newer regimes include mycophenolate mofetil (MMF). We report our outcomes in a prospectively monitored cohort of patients receiving our new standard treatment protocol, comprising rituximab induction therapy and MMF maintenance in patients already taking maintenance immunosuppression for SLE who developed lupus nephritis. We then attempted steroid reduction/withdrawal.
Patients with class III/IV/V lupus nephritis were included. All patients were on steroids prior to the development of lupus nephritis. Eighteen patients have reached at least 1 year follow-up. These patients received rituximab induction therapy and MMF maintenance therapy. Steroid reduction/withdrawal was guided by clinical response.
Fourteen of 18 (78%) patients achieved complete or partial remission with a sustained response of 12/18 (67%) at 1 year, with 2 patients having a relapse of proteinuria. Four patients did not respond. There was a significant decrease in proteinuria from a mean protein:creatinine ratio (PCR) of 325 mg/mmol at presentation to 132 mg/mmol at 1 year (P = 0.004). Serum albumin significantly increased from a mean of 29 g/L at presentation to 34 g/L at 1 year (P = 0.001). The complication rate was low with no severe infections. Following treatment with rituximab, 6 patients stopped prednisolone, 6 patients reduced their maintenance dose and 6 patients remained on the same dose (maximum 10 mg).
This data demonstrates the efficacy of a rituximab and MMF based regime in the treatment of lupus nephritis, allowing a reduction or total withdrawal of corticosteroids.