Does cyclophosphamide still play a role in glomerular diseases?

Claudio Ponticelli, Rachele Escoli, Gabriella Moroni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cyclophosphamide is a prodrug that is converted to inactive carboxy-cyclophosphamide, acrolein and phosphoramide mustard, an agent that adds alkyl groups to oxygen and nitrogen atoms of guanine, one of the four nitrogen bases that form the DNA nucleotides, causing DNA cross-links and introducing DNA breaks. These cytotoxic and mutagenic effects mainly occur in proliferating cells. Repair mechanisms may prevent DNA damage in quiescent cells, but they may be insufficient to contrast the side effects of cyclophosphamide if high doses of the drug are used. Most adverse events are dose- and age-dependent. Phosphoramide mustard can cause bone marrow toxicity, gonadal toxicity, and may favor the development of leukemia, bladder cancer and other types of malignancy. Acrolein can produce hemorrhagic cystitis and even bladder fibrosis when given for prolonged periods. A number of precautional measures should be taken to prevent these untoward events. In particular, long-term administration and high doses of cyclophosphamide should be avoided whenever possible. Today the indications to cyclophosphamide in glomerular diseases are more restricted than in the past, but the drug is still used as a steroid-sparing agent in steroid-sensitive minimal change disease and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. In membranous nephropathy, cyclophosphamide, alternated or associated with corticosteroids, proved to be beneficial in obtaining remission of nephrotic syndrome and preserving renal function. Cyclophosphamide is considered as a first-line treatment for rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis and the hectic phases of lupus nephritis. In conclusion, cyclophosphamide is a cheap drug that may be useful in a number of glomerular diseases but it may lead to severe side effects. A close monitoring of blood count and clinical conditions, as well as low cumulative doses of cyclophosphamide are strongly recommended when using the drug in patients with renal diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1022-1027
JournalAutoimmunity Reviews
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Drug metabolism
  • Glomerular disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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