Background: A clinical trial of cyclosporine in patients with steroid-resistant membranous nephropathy (MGN) was conducted. Although MGN remains the most common cause of adult-onset nephrotic syndrome, its management is still controversial. Cyclosporine has been shown to be effective in cases of progressive MGN, but it has not been used in controlled studies at an early stage of the disease.
Methods: We conducted a randomized trial in 51 biopsy-proven idiopathic MGN patients with nephrotic-range proteinuria comparing 26 weeks of cyclosporine treatment plus low-dose prednisone to placebo plus prednisone. All patients were followed for an average of 78 weeks, and the short- and long-term effects on renal function were assessed.
Results: Seventy-five percent of the treatment group versus 22% of the control group (P < 0.001) had a partial or complete remission of their proteinuria by 26 weeks. Relapse occurred in 43% (N = 9) of the cyclosporine remission group and 40% (N = 2) of the placebo group by week 52. The fraction of the total population in remission then remained almost unchanged and significant different between the groups until the end of the study (cyclosporine 39%, placebo 13%, P = 0.007). Renal function was unchanged and equal in the two groups over the test medication period. In the subsequent follow-up, renal insufficiency, defined as doubling of baseline creatinine, was seen in two patients in each group, but remained equal and stable in all of the other patients.
Conclusion: This study suggests that cyclosporine is an effective therapeutic agent in the treatment of steroid-resistant cases of MGN. Although a high relapse does occur, 39% of the treated patients remained in remission and were subnephrotic for at least one-year post-treatment, with no adverse effect on filtration function.