Update on the management of lupus nephritis: let the treatment fit the patient

Nat Clin Pract Rheumatol. 2008 Sep;4(9):464-72. doi: 10.1038/ncprheum0896.


The introduction of new therapeutic modalities, such as biologic agents, for the treatment of lupus nephritis has re-energized research into this disorder, enabling investigators to formulate evidence-based recommendations. Thus, it is now widely accepted that the management of lupus nephritis involves a period of intensive induction therapy, followed by a longer period of less-intensive maintenance therapy. Risk stratification, based on histologic, demographic, clinical and laboratory characteristics, allows the identification of patients at high risk of renal dysfunction, for whom aggressive therapy is likely to be the most beneficial. New studies and meta-analyses comparing mycophenolate mofetil with cyclophosphamide have confirmed the efficacy of the former for induction and maintenance therapy--particularly induction therapy, owing to its favorable toxicity profile; however, claims of efficacy superior to that of cyclophosphamide require additional documentation. Nonetheless, an increasing number of physicians use mycophenolate mofetil as induction therapy for most cases of proliferative lupus nephritis, while reserving cyclophosphamide for the most severe cases. No evidence yet indicates that mycophenolate mofetil is better than azathioprine for the maintenance of remission. For patients who relapse or who are unable to be treated with these agents, rituximab seems to offer some benefit with an acceptable toxicity profile. This article summarizes the advances in the management of lupus nephritis since our 2005 Review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cyclophosphamide / therapeutic use
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Lupus Nephritis / classification
  • Lupus Nephritis / drug therapy*
  • Lupus Nephritis / pathology
  • Mycophenolic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Mycophenolic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Rituximab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Rituximab
  • Cyclosporine
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Mycophenolic Acid
  • Azathioprine