Treatment of Systemic Sclerosis-related Interstitial Lung Disease: A Review of Existing and Emerging Therapies

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Abstract

Although interstitial lung disease accounts for the majority of deaths of patients with systemic sclerosis, treatment options for this manifestation of the disease are limited. Few high-quality, randomized, controlled trials exist for systemic sclerosis-related interstitial lung disease, and historically, studies have favored the use of cyclophosphamide. However, the benefit of cyclophosphamide for this disease is tempered by its complex adverse event profile. More recent studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of mycophenolate for systemic sclerosis-related interstitial lung disease, including Scleroderma Lung Study II. This review highlights the findings of this study, which was the first randomized controlled trial to compare cyclophosphamide with mycophenolate for the treatment of systemic sclerosis-related interstitial lung disease. The results reported in this trial suggest that there is no difference in treatment efficacy between mycophenolate and cyclophosphamide; however, mycophenolate appears to be safer and more tolerable than cyclophosphamide. In light of the ongoing advances in our understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms underlying interstitial lung disease in systemic sclerosis, this review also summarizes novel treatment approaches, presenting clinical and preclinical evidence for rituximab, tocilizumab, pirfenidone, and nintedanib, as well as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and lung transplantation. This review further explores how reaching a consensus on appropriate study end points, as well as trial enrichment criteria, is central to improving our ability to judiciously evaluate the safety and efficacy of emerging experimental therapies for systemic sclerosis-related interstitial lung disease.

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