Childhood nephrotic syndrome (NS) is frequently characterized by a relapsing course. There is no uniform agreement about the precise stage at which a steroid-sparing agent should be introduced to control the disease. In order to evaluate the treatment strategies and outcome of steroid-sensitive NS over the last 2 decades, a retrospective notes review was undertaken in a cohort of children treated at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital between 1980 and 2000. From a population of 863 children with NS referred, 509 had frequently relapsing or steroid-dependent disease and 261 children received at least one steroid-sparing agent. Cyclophosphamide was the first choice in 178 patients and in 114 no further steroid-sparing agent was needed. Levamisole was prescribed as the first steroid-sparing agent for 65 children and disease control was achieved in 30%. Cyclosporin A was prescribed in 61 children and sustained remission was induced in 69%. It is concluded that cyclophosphamide is a potent agent in inducing sustained remission in steroid-sensitive NS. Levamisole and cyclosporin A have emerged as attractive steroid-sparing agents. Complications and major side effects of treatment are infrequent but occasionally fatal.
Many patients receive an NSAID and at least one DMARD, sometimes with low-dose oral glucocorticoids . If disease remission is observed, regular NSAIDs or glucocorticoid treatment may no longer be needed. DMARDs help control arthritis but do not cure the disease. For that reason, if remission or optimal control is achieved with a DMARD, it is often continued as a maintenance dosage. Discontinuing a DMARD may reactivate disease or cause a “rebound flare”, with no assurance that disease control will be reestablished upon resumption of the medication.
The GTI will give investigators the first sensitive tool to use in randomized trials to measure whether a reduction in steroids leads to less steroid toxicity. Right now, they are beginning to use the GTI in several clinical trials. To help clinical investigators and eventually physicians in clinical practice, the GTI team is looking to develop an app so that the instrument is accessible on a mobile platform. They are also developing a pediatric version of the GTI, since steroid side effects are different in young patients. A future app may allow patients to report their own adverse events.