Authors: Vitor Cavalcanti Trindade, Magda Carneiro-Sampaio, Eloisa Bonfa & Clovis Artur Silva
Childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (cSLE) is a prototype of a multisystemic, inflammatory, heterogeneous autoimmune condition. This disease is characterized by simultaneous or sequential organ and system involvement, with unpredictable flare and high levels of morbidity and mortality. Racial/ethnic background, socioeconomic status, cost of medications, difficulty accessing health care, and poor adherence seem to impact lupus outcomes and treatment response. In this article, the management of cSLE patients is updated. Regarding pathogenesis, a number of potential targets for drugs have been studied. However, most treatments in pediatric patients are off-label drugs with recommendations based on inadequately powered studies, therapeutic consensus guidelines, or case series. Management practices for cSLE patients include evaluations of disease activity and cumulative damage scores, routine non-live vaccinations, physical activity, and addressing mental health issues. Antimalarials and glucocorticoids are still the most common drugs used to treat cSLE, and hydroxychloroquine is recommended for nearly all cSLE patients. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) should be standardized for each patient, based on disease flare and cSLE severity. Mycophenolate mofetil or intravenous cyclophosphamide is suggested as induction therapy for lupus nephritis classes III and IV. Calcineurin inhibitors (cyclosporine, tacrolimus, voclosporin) appear to be another good option for cSLE patients with lupus nephritis. Regarding B-cell-targeting biologic agents, rituximab may be used for refractory lupus nephritis patients in combination with another DMARD, and belimumab was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for cSLE treatment in children aged > 5 years. New therapies targeting CD20, such as atacicept and telitacicept, seem to be promising drugs for SLE patients. Anti-interferon therapies (sifalimumab and anifrolumab) have shown beneficial results in phase II randomized control trials in adult SLE patients, as have some Janus kinase inhibitors, and these could be alternative treatments for pediatric patients with severe interferon-mediated inflammatory disease in the future. In addition, strict control of proteinuria and blood pressure is required in cSLE, especially with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor and angiotensin receptor blocker use.
Belimumab, a monoclonal antibody that blocks the binding of soluble B lymphocyte stimulator to B cells, was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (cSLE) treatment in children aged >5 years.
Calcineurin inhibitors (cyclosporine, tacrolimus, voclosporin) appear to be a good option for cSLE patients with lupus nephritis.
Anti-interferon therapies (sifalimumab and anifrolumab) have shown beneficial results in adult SLE patients, as have Janus kinase inhibitors, and could in the future be an alternative treatment for pediatric patients with severe interferon-mediated inflammatory disease.
New therapies targeting CD20, such as atacicept and telitacicept, seem to be other promising drugs for SLE patients.