Background: Rituximab (RTX) has recently showed promising results in the treatment of steroid-dependent idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (SDNS).
Methods: This was a retrospective multicenter study of 18 children treated with RTX for SDNS, with a mean follow-up of 3.2 years. RTX was introduced because of side effects or relapses during therapy with immunosuppressive agents. The children received one to four infusions of RTX during the first course of treatment, and subsequent infusions were given due to CD19-cell recovery (CD19 >1 %; 54 % of children) or relapse (41 %), as well as systematically (5 %).
Results: Treatment with RTX maintained sustained remission without relapse in 22 % of patients and increased the duration of remission in all other patients. The time between two successive relapses was 9 months in the absence of re-treatment and 24.5 months when infusions were performed at the time of CD19-cell recovery. At the last follow-up, 44.5 % of patients were free of oral drug therapy. Of those still receiving oral drugs, all doses had been decreased. No serious adverse events occurred.
Conclusion: The results of this retrospective study confirm the efficacy and very good safety of RTX in the treatment of SDNS. The optimal therapeutic protocol seems to be a repeated single infusion at the time of CD19-cell recovery.