Comparative efficacy and safety of mycophenolate mofetil and cyclophosphamide in the induction treatment of lupus nephritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Medicine (Baltimore). 2020 Sep 18;99(38):e22328. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000022328.


Background: Lupus nephritis (LN) remains a predominant cause of morbidity and mortality in SLE. Here we performed a meta-analysis to evaluate the efficacy and safety of the induction treatment with mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) and cyclophosphamide (CYC) for LN.

Methods: Relevant literature was searched by computer from the establishment of the database to November 2019. A meta-analysis was conducted to analysis the efficacy and safety between mycophenolate mofetil and cyclophosphamide as induction therapy in LN patients. The primary end-point was response to urine protein, serum creatinine (Scr) and serum complement C3, and the secondary end-points were complete remission and adverse reactions.

Results: Eighteen articles were selected for the final meta-analysis, involving 1989 patients with LN, of which the renal biopsy result could be classified into class III-V according to the standards of WHO/ISN. The results revealed that MMF was superior to CYC in increasing the level of serum complement C3 [SMD = 0.475, 95%CI (0.230-0.719)] and complete remission [RR = 1.231, 95%CI (1.055-1.437)]. Furthermore, the subgroup analysis showed that it was in Asian patients, rather than in Caucasian patients, that CYC exerted a better effect on lowering the level of urine protein (UPRO) than MMF [SMD = 0.405, 95%CI (0.081-0.730)]. Besides, when the initial UPRO level was less than 4 g/day, the effect of CYC was better than MMF [SMD = 0.303, 95%CI (0.014-0.591)]. There was no significant difference between MMF and CYC in improving Scr [SMD = 0.090, 95%CI (-0.060-0.239)]. When it came to the comparison of safety between MMF and CYC, the meta-analysis showed that MMF was superior to CYC in decreasing infection in Caucasian patients [RR = 0.727, 95%CI (0.532-0.993)], reducing the risk of leukopenia and menstrual abnormalities in Asian patients and lowering the frequency of gastrointestinal symptoms [RR = 0.639, 95%CI (0.564-0.724)], independent of race.

Conclusions: MMF precedes CYC in improving serum complement C3 and complete remission regardless of race, as well as shows fewer adverse drug reactions in the induction treatment of LN belonging to type III-V. But for Asian patients or those initial UPRO levels are less than 4 g/day, CYC may be superior to MMF.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cyclophosphamide / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Nephritis / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Mycophenolic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Remission Induction


  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Mycophenolic Acid