Rituximab for childhood refractory nephrotic syndrome

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Several therapies including immunosuppressive agents have been shown to be effective and safe for frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome/steroid-dependent nephrotic syndrome (FRNS/SDNS) and steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome in children. It is evident, however, that a substantial number of children are still refractory to treatment despite these therapies. Rituximab is a chimeric monoclonal antibody, which inhibits CD20-mediated B-cell proliferation and differentiation. It was first introduced for the treatment of B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and was subsequently administered to patients with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, or immunocomplex glomerulonephritis. Recently, a number of case reports and non-controlled clinical trials have suggested that rituximab may be effective for children with refractory nephrotic syndrome. Controlled prospective trials, however, are required to establish the value of rituximab in refractory nephrotic syndrome. The purpose of the present study was therefore to evaluate the efficacy and safety of rituximab in childhood-onset refractory nephrotic syndrome. The Research Group of Childhood-onset Refractory Nephrotic Syndrome (RCRNS) conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center clinical trial (RCRNS-01) and an open-label, multi-center, pharmacokinetic clinical trial (RCRNS-02). These two trials were investigator-initiated, registration-directed clinical trials designed to apply Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare approval for the use of rituximab for childhood-onset refractory FRNS/SDNS in Japan. RCRNS-01 could be the first study to clarify whether rituximab is effective and safe for childhood-onset refractory FRNS/SDNS.

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