Effects of micronutrient antioxidants (alpha-tocopherol and ascorbic acid) on skin thickening and lung function in patients with early diffuse systemic sclerosis

Rheumatol Int. 2011 Aug;31(8):1051-4. doi: 10.1007/s00296-010-1398-1. Epub 2010 Mar 23.


To assess the effects of alpha-tocopherol and ascorbic acid on skin thickening and lung function in patients with early diffuse systemic sclerosis (SSc), thirteen patients with early diffuse SSc, with positive anti-topoisomerase-I antibody, high skin thickening progression rate (STPR ≥ 12/year) and decreased lung diffusing capacity (DLCO ≤ 75%) were included in this study. Patients were randomized into two subgroups: Subgroup A-six patients, treated with intravenous cyclophosphamide (CyP) (500 mg/m(2) of body surface monthly) and antioxidants (alpha-tocopherol 400 IU/day and ascorbic acid 1,000 mg/day), and Subgroup B-seven patients, who received CyP without antioxidants. In both subgroups, effects of treatment on skin thickening and lung function were evaluated by comparison of the modified Rodnan skin score (MRSS), STPR, forced vital capacity (FVC), transfer-factor (DLCO) and diffusing coefficient for carbon monoxide (DLCO/VA) at baseline and 1 month after the sixth pulse of CyP. The mean MRSS did not change from baseline to the end of the follow-up in subgroup A (15.7 vs. 16.4, P = 0.50), but it increased significantly in subgroup B (17.9 vs. 23.6, P = 0.03). Although the mean STPR decreased notably in both subgroups of patients (in subgroup A-from 18.9/year to 2.2/year, P = 0.03, and in subgroup B-from 17.5/year to 8.6/year, P = 0.03), the mean STPR at the end of the treatment period was significantly lower in subgroup A (2.2/year vs. 8.6/year, P = 0.04). The mean value of FVC did not change either in subgroup A (91.0-87%, P = 0.2) or in subgroup B (from 101.2 to 99.7%, P = 0.7). Parameters of lung diffusing capacity improved somewhat in subgroup A (DLCO from 55.7 to 62.0% and DLCO/VA from 68.7 to 74.2%) and decreased in subgroup B (DLCO from 66.2 to 60.6% and DLCO/VA from 76.9 to 71.6%), but differences were not statistically significant. After 6 months of therapy, patients treated with CyP and antioxidants had a significantly lower STPR, compared to patients treated with CyP only. Lung function parameters remained stable in both subgroups. However, lung diffusing capacity improved slightly, without statistical significance, in patients treated with CyP and antioxidants, and it deteriorated in patients without antioxidants.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Cyclophosphamide / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Diffusing Capacity / drug effects
  • Pulmonary Diffusing Capacity / physiology
  • Scleroderma, Diffuse / drug therapy*
  • Scleroderma, Diffuse / pathology
  • Scleroderma, Diffuse / physiopathology
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / pathology
  • alpha-Tocopherol / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • alpha-Tocopherol
  • Ascorbic Acid