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J Rheumatol. 2002 Apr;29(4):731-6.

Cyclophosphamide pulse regimen in the treatment of alveolitis in systemic sclerosis.

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Department of Internal Medicine and Public Health, University of L'Aquila, Italy.



To evaluate, in a pilot study, the efficacy of a short term cyclophosphamide (CYC) pulse regimen on alveolitis in a cohort of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc).


Twenty-three patients with SSc (17 diffuse SSc and 6 limited SSc) were selected in 5 centers in Italy, based on the findings of an abnormal bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cell analysis in association with altered pulmonary function tests (PFT) or recent deterioration in flow volume curve (FVC). Patients were also evaluated by skin score (Rodnan), esophageal manometry and barium swallow radiography, and electrocardiography and 2-mode echocardiography. The pre-enrolment pulmonary evaluation and after 6 months of therapy included evaluation of the clinical status, PFT (FVC, FEV1, DLCO), BAL. standard chest radiograph, and chest high resolution computed tomography. All patients received i.v. CYC (1000 mg/m2 of body surface monthly for 6 mo) and oral prednisone (25 mg daily for the first month and subsequently 5 mg daily of maintenance dosage for the remaining 5 mo). A complete blood count and urinalysis were obtained at monthly intervals.


After 6 months of therapy the values for FVC did not change significantly. Individually, 8 of 23 patients showed an improvement (> 15% increase) in FVC after 6 months, while FVC in 13 cases remained stable. Only 2 patients had an important decline in FVC after 6 months of therapy (17 and 24% decrease). Improvement in DLCO was noted in 15 of 23 patients after 6 months of therapy. Four patients were stable and 4 patients had a worsened DLCO at the end of the study. After therapy the mean value of BAL fluid recovery did not change. There was a reduction in total cell number although this value did not reach statistical significance. The levels of neutrophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes, and macrophages did not change significantly. Scans for patients with grades 1, 2, and 3 did not differ significantly after 6 months of therapy, and 14 patients were stable. Changes in appearance, in relation to changes in extent of disease, were seen in 8 patients and consisted of an extension of reticular pattern and transformation from grade 1 to 2 (6/8 patients). All patients showed a ground-glass appearance indicating an acute alveolitis. Improvement in ground-glass was noted in 10 of 23 patients after 6 mo therapy. At the end of the study, 8 patients were stable and 5 patients had a diffusion of the ground-glass to other segments. No side effects were experienced during the treatment except for mild nausea in 4 patients; no patients discontinued therapy during the study.


CYC pulse regimen seems to stabilize alveolitis in the majority of cases. The association of CYC pulsed modality with prednisone may be useful in SSc patients to control disease evolution in the lung.

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