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Extended report
Prospective observational single-centre cohort study to evaluate the effectiveness of treating lupus nephritis with rituximab and mycophenolate mofetil but no oral steroids
  1. Marie B Condon1,
  2. Damien Ashby1,
  3. Ruth J Pepper1,
  4. H Terence Cook1,2,
  5. Jeremy B Levy1,
  6. Megan Griffith1,
  7. Tom D Cairns1,
  8. Liz Lightstone1,2,3
  1. 1Imperial College NHS Healthcare Trust Lupus Centre, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Centre for Complement and Inflammation Research, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK
  3. 3The Section of Renal and Vascular Inflammation, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Liz Lightstone, Section of Renal and Vascular Inflammation, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Campus, Du Cane Road, London W12 0NN, UK; l.lightstone{at}


Objectives Lupus nephritis (LN) is a serious complication of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). All current treatment regimens include oral steroids, which are associated with severe adverse events and long-term damage. We have piloted a steroid-avoiding protocol (rituxilup) for the treatment of biopsy-proven active International Society of Nephrology/Renal Pathology Society (ISN/RPS) class III, IV, or class V LN.

Methods We report the findings from the first 50 consecutive patients, treated with 2 doses of rituximab (1 g) and methyl prednisolone (500 mg) on days 1 and 15, and maintenance treatment of mycophenolate mofetil. Patients on maintenance steroids or with life-threatening SLE or requiring dialysis were excluded. Renal remission was defined as serum creatinine no greater than 15% above baseline; complete biochemical remission (CR) was defined as urine protein : creatinine ratio (PCR)<50 mg/mmol or partial remission (PR) if PCR>50 mg/mmol but non-nephrotic and >50% reduction.

Results A total of 45 (90%) patients achieved CR or PR by a median time of 37 weeks (range 4–200). Overall, 72% (n=36) achieved CR (median time 36 weeks (11–58)) and a further 18% (n=9) achieved persistent PR (median time 32 weeks (19–58)). By 52 weeks, CR and PR had been achieved in 52% (n=26) and 34% (n=17) respectively. In all, 12 relapses occurred in 11 patients, at a median time of 65.1 weeks (20–112) from remission. A total of 6/50 patients had systemic flares. Of the 45 responders, only 2 required >2 weeks of oral steroids. Adverse events were infrequent; 18% were admitted, 10% for an infective episode.

Conclusions The rituxilup cohort demonstrates that oral steroids can be safely avoided in the treatment of LN. If findings are confirmed, it could mark a step change in the approach to the treatment of LN.

  • Lupus Nephritis
  • Treatment
  • Corticosteroids
  • B cells

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