Methotrexate treatment in juvenile localized scleroderma: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Jul;63(7):1998-2006. doi: 10.1002/art.30264.


Objective: Juvenile localized scleroderma is a chronic progressive fibrotic disorder of the skin that causes permanent disability and aesthetic damage. This study was undertaken to assess the safety and efficacy of methotrexate (MTX) in the treatment of juvenile localized scleroderma.

Methods: In this double-blind study, patients with active juvenile localized scleroderma were randomized (2:1) to receive oral MTX (15 mg/m², maximum 20 mg) or placebo once weekly, for 12 months or until treatment failure. Both groups received oral prednisone (1 mg/kg/day, maximum 50 mg) for the first 3 months. A target lesion was evaluated clinically, with infrared thermography and using a computerized scoring system with skin score rate (SSR) evaluation. Response to treatment was defined as the absence of new lesions, SSR ≤ 1, and a decrease in lesion temperature of at least 10% compared to baseline. Treatment failure was defined as the occurrence of new lesions, SSR > 1, or increased lesion temperature. All analyses were done on the intent-to-treat population.

Results: Of the 85 patients screened, 70 (ages 6-17 years) were randomized (46 to the MTX group, 24 to the placebo group). The mean disease duration was 2.3 years. After an initial response in all patients, disease relapsed in 15 MTX-treated patients (32.6%) and 17 placebo-treated patients (70.8%) (P < 0.005). New lesions appeared in 3 MTX-treated patients (6.5%) versus 4 placebo-treated patients (16.7%). The mean SSR decreased from 1 to 0.79 in the MTX group and increased from 1 to 1.1 in the placebo group, and the mean target lesion temperature decreased by 44.4% in the MTX group versus 12.1% in the placebo group. Twenty-six patients in the MTX group (56.5%) and 11 patients in the placebo group (45.8%) developed mild side effects related to treatment. None of the side effects were severe enough to necessitate treatment discontinuation.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate that MTX is efficacious in the treatment of juvenile localized scleroderma and is well tolerated.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / adverse effects
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Scleroderma, Localized / drug therapy*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Methotrexate