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Medicine (Baltimore). 1997 Nov;76(6):432-7.

Cytotoxic therapy in systemic lupus erythematosus. Experience from a single center.

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Centre for Prognosis Studies in the Rheumatic Diseases, Toronto Hospital, Ontario, Canada.


The present survey of cytotoxic therapy from a single large lupus clinic has shown that approximately 33% of the patients have received cytotoxic therapy at some point in their course. These agents were initiated for a variety of manifestations, with renal manifestations being the major indication, accounting for 28.2% of the cytotoxic agents used. Other common indications for initiation of cytotoxic therapy included steroid sparing (18.4%), global flare (12.5%), neurologic manifestations (11.4%), and musculoskeletal (8.6%). Azathioprine, methotrexate, and cyclophosphamide accounted for 98% of all cytotoxic agents used. Azathioprine was the most frequently used cytotoxic drug (70%), followed by methotrexate (21.5%) and cyclophosphamide (9.4%). Cytotoxic agents were used sequentially in 12.5% of patients and in combination in 4.2% of the patients. Overall, the use of cytotoxic therapy appears to be beneficial in reducing global disease activity, as the mean SLEDAI fell by 2.59 (33%) over 6 months of cytotoxic therapy, and the mean steroid dose was reduced by 37% over the same time period. There was also an improvement in most organ-specific indications with the use of cytotoxic agents. Overall the cytotoxic agents were well tolerated, with 17% of the courses being discontinued due to a side effect. Cytopenia was the most common side effect necessitating discontinuation of cytotoxic agents.

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