Patients with steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome (SRNS) who develop resistance to immunosuppressive agents, defined as refractory SRNS, have poor renal outcomes. Although the chimeric anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody rituximab has shown efficacy for frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome and steroid-dependent nephrotic syndrome, its efficacy for refractory SRNS remains uncertain due to limited data. According to previous case reports, 50.4% of patients with refractory SRNS showed clinical improvements after rituximab treatment. Remission rates in patients with initial steroid resistance and late steroid resistance were 43.9 and 57.7%, respectively, and 41.5 and 63.6% in patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis and minor glomerular abnormalities, respectively. However, various factors (race, disease severity, number of rituximab doses, concomitant treatments, and observation period) differed among these observational studies and their consensus may also have been affected by potential publication bias. Rituximab monotherapy may have some degree of efficacy and lead to satisfactory outcomes in a subset of patients with refractory SRNS. However, administration of concomitant treatments during rituximab-mediated B cell depletion, such as methylprednisolone pulse therapy, daily oral prednisolone therapy, and immunosuppressive agents, may lead to better outcomes in these patients. Large-scale, multi-center prospective studies are needed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of such regimens.
Keywords: Cyclosporine (CsA); Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS); Genetic analysis; Methylprednisolone pulse therapy (MPT); Refractory steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome; Rituximab.