Background: Treatment of pulmonary sarcoidosis is recommended in case of significant symptoms, impaired or deteriorating lung function. Evidence-based treatment recommendations are limited and largely based on expert opinion. Prednisone is currently the first-choice therapy and leads to short-term improvement of lung function. Unfortunately, prednisone often has side-effects and may be associated with impaired quality of life. Methotrexate is presently considered second-line therapy, and appears to have fewer side-effects. Objective: The primary objective of this trial is to investigate the effectiveness and tolerability of methotrexate as first-line therapy in patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis compared with prednisone. The primary endpoint of this study will be the change in hospital-measured Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) between baseline and 24 weeks. Secondary objectives are to gain more insights in response to therapy in individual patients by home spirometry and patient-reported outcomes. Blood biomarkers will be examined to find predictors of response to therapy, disease progression and chronicity, and to improve our understanding of the underlying disease mechanism. Methods/design: In this prospective, randomized, non-blinded, multi-center, non-inferiority trial, we plan to randomize 138 treatment-naïve patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis who are about to start treatment. Patients will be randomized in a 1:1 ratio to receive either prednisone or methotrexate in a predefined schedule for 24 weeks, after which they will be followed up in regular care for up to 2 years. Regular hospital visits will include pulmonary function assessment, completion of patient-reported outcomes, and blood withdrawal. Additionally, patients will be asked to perform weekly home spirometry, and record symptoms and side-effects via a home monitoring application for 24 weeks. Discussion: This study will be the first randomized controlled trial comparing first-line treatment of prednisone and methotrexate and provide valuable data on efficacy, safety, quality of life and biomarkers. If this study confirms the hypothesis that methotrexate is as effective as prednisone as first-line treatment for sarcoidosis but with fewer sideeffects, this will lead to improvement in care and initiate a change in practice. Furthermore, insights into the immunological mechanisms underlying sarcoidosis pathology might reveal new therapeutic targets.

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine
Department of Pulmonology