A group of clinics cooperating as the Lupus Plasmapheresis Study Group (LPSG) is starting an international multicenter study of the treatment of severe systemic lupus erythematosus. The primary goal of this randomized and prospective trial is to establish whether treatment with plasmapheresis and subsequent pulse cyclophosphamide improves the outcome compared to treatment with pulse cyclophosphamide alone. The underlying rationale assumes that plasmapheresis: a) eliminates pathogenic autoantibodies and immune complexes and b) induces a compensatory activation of pathogenic lymphocyte clones through a feed-back between circulating antibodies and their respective antibody-producing clones. Synchronization of plasmapheresis with subsequent pulse cyclophosphamide should enhance the deletion of pathogenic clones during the period of greatest vulnerability. This overview reviews the first results of treatment approaches based on this concept and summarizes the design of the LPSG trial.