Ovarian failure in systemic lupus erythematosus patients treated with pulsed intravenous cyclophosphamide

Lupus. 2004;13(9):673-8. doi: 10.1191/0961203304lu2012oa.


Pulsed intravenous cyclophosphamide is considered as standard therapy for lupus nephritis and several other severe manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). While the response rate to intravenous cyclophosphamide is substantial, concern has arisen about its toxicity. In addition to increased susceptibility to infection, bone marrow suppression, alopecia, hemorrhagic cystitis and malignancy, ovarian failure is an important side effect associated with the use of cyclophosphamide. Prior research on cyclophosphamide-treated women has consistently demonstrated that the risk of sustained amenorrhea depends on the age of the patient and the cumulative dose received. Sustained amenorrhea is difficult to avoid in women 32 years or older, even with very short intravenous cyclophosphamide courses. Younger women seem to have a substantially lower incidence of ovarian failure, but this side effect may be far more problematic for these patients. In these young women the risk may be modulated by the prior SLE disease duration, the presence of anti-U1RNP antibodies and anti-Ro antibodies. Co-treatment with gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists may preseserve the future fertility and ovarian function in young women. Ovarian banking before administration of cyclophosphamide should be considered in selected patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkylating Agents / adverse effects
  • Amenorrhea / chemically induced
  • Cyclophosphamide / administration & dosage
  • Cyclophosphamide / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy*
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / chemically induced*
  • Pulse Therapy, Drug


  • Alkylating Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclophosphamide