BK virus-associated hemorrhagic cystitis (BKV-HC) is a severe complication after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. So far, no specific antiviral drug with proven efficacy has been approved for treating BKV-HC. Leflunomide is an immunosuppressive drug with antiviral activity and has been used in treating BKV-associated nephropathy after renal transplantation. This is the first report on the efficacy and safety of leflunomide in the treatment of BKV-HC. From January 2006 to January 2009, 89 patients received allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and among them, 18 patients were identified as having BKV-HC, with a 20% cumulative incidence. Fourteen patients were treated with oral leflunomide. Three days of 100 mg/day leflunomide was used as loading doses and followed by maintenance doses of 20 mg/day. The urinary BKV-DNA load was monitored weekly by real-time quantitative PCR. The efficacy was evaluated on day 20 after leflunomide treatment. Seven patients (50%) achieved complete remission, 5 patients (35.7%) achieved partial remission, and 2 patients (14.3%) had more than a 1-log reduction in urinary BKV-DNA loads after treatment. During the leflunomide treatment, the graft-versus-host disease of the patients did not progress, and the dosages of the immunosuppressant were reduced simultaneously. One patient discontinued treatment because of intolerable gastrointestinal symptoms. Neutropenia occurred in 2 cases. These preliminary data suggest that leflunomide may be a potentially effective medication for treating BKV-HC without significant toxicity, but evidence supporting its use requires randomized controlled trials.

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