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      Management of Membranous Nephropathy in Western Countries

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      Kidney Diseases

      S. Karger AG

      Glomerulonephritis, Nephrotic syndrome, Membranous nephropathy

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          Background: Idiopathic membranous nephropathy (IMN) is a common cause of nephrotic syndrome (NS) in adults in Western countries. In 2012, the KDIGO (Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes) working group published guidelines for the management of glomerulonephritis, thus providing a template for the treatment of this condition. While being aware of the impact of the clinicians' acumen and that patients may choose a different therapeutic option due to the risks of specific drugs and also of the evolving guidelines, this review details our approach to the management of patients with IMN in a Western center (Toronto). Summary: Based on studies published in Europe and North America, we included recent advances in the diagnosis and management of patients with membranous nephropathy similar to our practice population. We highlight the importance of establishing the idiopathic nature of this condition before initiating immunosuppressive therapy, which should include the screening for secondary causes, especially malignancy in the elderly population. The expected outcomes with and without treatment for patients with different risks of progression will be discussed to help guide clinicians in choosing the appropriate course of treatment. The role of conservative therapy as well as of established immunosuppressive treatment, such as the combination of cyclophosphamide and prednisone, and calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs), as well as of newer agents such as rituximab will be reviewed. Key Messages: Appropriate assessment is required to exclude secondary conditions causing membranous glomerulonephritis. The role of antibodies to phospholipase A<sub>2</sub> receptor (anti-PLA2R) in establishing the primary disease is growing, though more data are required. The increase in therapeutic options supports treatment individualization, taking into account the availability, benefits and risks, as well as patient preference. Facts from East and West: (1) The prevalence of IMN is increasing worldwide, particularly in elderly patients, and has been reported in 20.0-36.8% of adult-onset NS cases. The presence of anti-PLA2R antibodies in serum or PLA2R on renal biopsy is the most predictive feature for the diagnosis of IMN and is used in both the East and West; however, appropriate screening to rule out secondary causes should still be performed. (2) Several observational (nonrandomized) Asian studies indicate a good response to corticosteroids alone in IMN patients, although no randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been done in Asian membranous patients at high risk of progression. Corticosteroid monotherapy has failed in randomized controlled studies in Western countries and is therefore not recommended. (3) Cyclophosphamide is the most commonly prescribed alkylating agent in Europe and China. Also, chlorambucil is still used in some Western countries, particularly in Europe. In North America, CNIs are the more common first-line treatment. (4) Cyclosporine is predominantly used as monotherapy in North America, although KDIGO and Japanese guidelines still recommend a combination with low-dose corticosteroids. Clinical studies both in Asia and Europe showed no or little effects of monotherapy with mycophenolate mofetil compared to standard therapies. (5) There are encouraging data from nonrandomized Western studies for the use of rituximab and a few small studies using adrenocorticotropic hormone. Clinical trials are ongoing in North America to confirm these observations. These drugs are rarely used in Asia. (6) A Chinese study reported that 36% of IMN patients suffered from venous thromboembolism versus 7.3% in a North American study. Prophylactic anticoagulation therapy is usually added to IMN patients with a low risk of bleeding in both Eastern and Western countries. (7) The Chinese traditional medicine herb triptolide, which might have podocyte-protective properties, is used in China to treat IMN. An open-label, multicenter RCT showed that Shenqi, a mixture of 13 herbs, was superior to corticosteroids plus cyclophosphamide therapy to restore epidermal growth factor receptor in IMN patients, although proteinuria improvement was equal in the two groups. Importantly, Shenqi treatment induced no severe adverse events while standard therapy did.

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          Most cited references 47

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          The KDIGO practice guideline on glomerulonephritis: reading between the (guide)lines--application to the individual patient.

          The KDIGO guideline for glomerulonephritis is designed to assist health-care providers in treating patients with glomerular diseases. A guideline is not a set of rules but is intended to allow the practitioner to make an informed decision based on the available evidence. Due to its general nature and the variability of strength of the available studies, it is often difficult to directly apply a guideline to the care of an individual patient. This commonly relates to the limited generalizability of the evidence, i.e., does not cover every clinical scenario. To underscore this point, we have introduced within the context of the glomerulonephritis guideline cases with specific features to illustrate the constant need for clinical judgment. These vignettes are intended to demonstrate how the best treatment plans should be individualized and take into account patient preference and clinical acumen, as well as the best available evidence.
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            Changing etiologies of unexplained adult nephrotic syndrome: a comparison of renal biopsy findings from 1976-1979 and 1995-1997.

            Data compiled during the 1970s and early 1980s indicated that during these periods, membranous nephropathy was the most common cause of unexplained nephrotic syndrome in adults, followed in order of frequency by minimal-change nephropathy and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). However, we and others recently reported an increase in the incidence of FSGS over the past two decades, and the number of cases of FSGS diagnosed by renal biopsies in these centers now exceeds the number of cases of membranous nephropathy. Nonetheless, as a substantial fraction of patients with FSGS do not have the nephrotic syndrome, it remained unclear as to what extent the relative frequencies of FSGS and other glomerulopathies as causes of the nephrotic syndrome have changed over this time. To address this concern, we reviewed data from 1,000 adult native kidney biopsies performed between January 1976 and April 1979 and from 1,000 biopsies performed between January 1995 and January 1997, identified all cases with a full-blown nephrotic syndrome of unknown etiology at the time of biopsy, and compared the relative frequencies with which specific diseases were diagnosed in these latter cases between the two time intervals. The main findings of this study were that, first, during the 1976 to 1979 period, the relative frequencies of membranous (36%) and minimal-change (23%) nephropathies and of FSGS (15%) as causes of unexplained nephrotic syndrome were similar to those observed in previous studies during the 1970s and early 1980s. In contrast, from 1995 to 1997, FSGS was the most common cause of this syndrome, accounting for 35% of cases compared with 33% for membranous nephropathy. Second, during the 1995 to 1997 period, FSGS accounted for more than 50% of cases of unexplained nephrotic syndrome in black adults and for 67% of such cases in black adults younger than 45 years. Third, although the relative frequency of nephrotic syndrome due to FSGS was two to three times higher in black than in white patients during both study periods, the frequency of FSGS increased similarly among both racial groups from the earlier to the later period. Fourth, the frequency of minimal-change nephrotic syndrome decreased from the earlier to the later study period in both black and white adults. Fifth, the relative frequency of membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis as a cause of the nephrotic syndrome declined from the 1976 to 1979 period to the 1995 to 1997 period, whereas that of immunoglobulin A nephropathy appeared to increase; the latter accounted for 14% of cases of unexplained nephrotic syndrome in white adults during the latter study period. Finally, 10% of nephrotic adults older than 44 years had AL amyloid nephropathy; none of these patients had multiple myeloma or a known paraprotein at the time of renal biopsy.
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              PLA2R autoantibodies and PLA2R glomerular deposits in membranous nephropathy.


                Author and article information

                Kidney Diseases
                S. Karger AG
                September 2015
                09 September 2015
                : 1
                : 2
                : 126-137
                University of Toronto, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, Ont., Canada
                Author notes
                *Daniel Cattran, University Health Network, Toronto General Hospital, 11 PMB 183, 585 University Ave, Toronto, ON M5G 2N2 (Canada), E-Mail
                437287 PMC4934807 Kidney Dis 2015;1:126-137
                © 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 3, References: 75, Pages: 12
                Membranous Nephropathy: Review


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