Background The most effective drug for the maintenance therapy of severe forms of lupus nephritis (LN) is still a matter of debate.
Objectives To compare efficacy and safety of cyclosporine (CYA) with mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) and with azathioprine (AZA) in the long-term maintenance therapy of LN.
Methods Ninety-six patients (pts) (93 females, mean age 31.98±12.78 years) with SLE and biopsy proven LN (16 pts:class III; 64 pts:class IV; 16 pts:class V ISN/RPS). Fifty-six pts entered this study at diagnosis of LN and 40 during a course of a LN flare. Twenty-five pts (30%) had Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR)<60ml/min (MDRD) and proteinuria was 3.88±2.89 gr/day. Induction therapy: 3 methylprednisolone pulses followed by oral prednisone in 92 pts and oral prednisone in 4 pts; cyclophosphamide in 74% of pts, MMF in 9.4%, AZA in 5.2%, and other immunosuppressors in 11.4%. After six months, 30 pts started maintenance therapy with CYA, 32 with MMF and 34 with AZA. At induction therapy there were not significant differences between the three groups in histological classes at renal biopsy, mean serum creatinine, eGFR and proteinuria, and type of induction therapy. The mean follow-up after the beginning of the study was 15.9 years for CYA, 10.5 for MMF, 14.1 AZA. Primary endpoint was renal response at 1, 5 and 10 years defined as complete renal response: eGFR>60ml/min and proteinuria <0.5g/die, partial response: eGFR>60ml/min and proteinuria >0.5/die, no response: eGFR<60ml/min. Secondary endpoint: incidence of flare and safety.
Results At the beginning of maintenance therapy, the mean serum creatinine and eGFR were similar in the 3 groups (0.92±0.26mg/dl, eGFR 109,9±49,5ml/min in CYA, 0.86±0.4mg/dl, eGFR 119±44,6 in MMF, 0.85±0.3mg/dl, eGFR 106,6±43,9ml/min in AZA). Proteinuria was higher in CYA group (CYA:2.03±1.7g/day; MMF:0.77±0.8g/day; AZA:1.2±1.1g/day). At the beginning of maintenance therapy, complete, partial and no response were 26.6%, 60%, and 13.4% in CYA, 53.1%, 43.8% and 3.1% in MMF and 38.2%, 58.8% and 3% in AZA group (Fig 1). At 1 year, after 6 months of maintenance therapy, in CYA group the percentage of pts in complete remission increased to 73% (vs 65.6% in MMF and 40% in AZA), at 5 years it was 80% (vs 83% in AZA and in MMF) and 88% at 10 years vs 70% in MMF and 68% in AZA (Fig 2,3,4). The percentage of non-responsive pts was stable from 1 to 10 years in the CYA group (around 13%), it slightly increased in MMF group (from 3.1 to 13,5%) and in AZA group (from 15 to 24%). During the study, SLE flares occurred in 30% of CYA group, 41% in MMF and 32% of the AZA. The average time from the beginning of the study and the first flare was 3.95±2.76years in CYA, 3.62±1.60 in MMF and 5.9±2.37 in AZA. No side effects were reported in 90% of pts treated with CYA, in 81.3% with MMF and in 85.3% with AZA group.
Conclusion This is the first study comparing these 3 drugs as maintenance therapy in the long term. After 10 years of observation, CYA, AZA and MMF have proven to be effective in consolidating and maintaining the remission of LN. Of interest are the results achieved in the CYA group. Despite worse clinical conditions at the beginning of maintenance therapy, CYA allowed a rapid achievement of LN remission in the great majority of pts compared to AZA and MMF. Remission persisted over 10 years of observation. The number and type of flares and of side effects were not different between groups.
Reference  Moroni G, et al. 2006
Disclosure of Interests Lorenza Maria Argolini: None declared, Elena Elefante: None declared, Francesca Saccon: None declared, Valentina Binda: None declared, Maria Gerosa: None declared, Luigi Sinigaglia Speakers bureau: Yes, I,ve been invited speaker by Amgen, Ely Lilly, UCB, Abbvie, Roche and BMS., Piergiorgio Messa: None declared, Andrea Doria: None declared, Marta Mosca Paid instructor for: GlaxoSmithKline, Lilly, UCB, Gabriella Moroni: None declared
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