, Volume 66, Issue 13, pp 1665-1684
Date: 12 Sep 2012

Immunotherapy for De Novo Renal Transplantation

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Immunosuppressive drugs have been traditionally developed to prevent acute rejection and to improve short-term kidney transplant outcomes. There is still a medical need to improve outcomes among subgroups of patients at higher risk for graft loss and to reduce cardiovascular, infectious and malignancy-associated morbidity and mortality, and improve long-term adherence. Several new immunosuppressive agents and formulations are undergoing clinical investigation and are discussed in this review.

A modified release tacrolimus formulation (MR4) for once-daily administration is undergoing phase III trials. It has been developed to be administered de novo or for maintenance using the same therapeutic target tacrolimus trough concentrations as for the original formulation.

Belatacept (LEA29Y), a second generation cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte-associated antigen immunoglobulin (CTLA4-Ig), blocks the interaction between CD80/86 and CD28 costimulatory pathways. In phase II trials, belatacept was as effective as ciclosporin (cyclosporine) when administered in combination with basiliximab, mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) and corticosteroids. Currently, belatacept is undergoing phase III trials including one study in recipients of organs from expanded criteria donors.

Inhibitors of the Janus protein tyrosine kinase (JAK)-3 show some selectivity for cells of the lymphoid lineage and have been shown to be effective in late preclinical transplant models. The most frequent adverse effects have been related to nonspecific binding to JAK2 kinases. CP-690550, a JAK3 inhibitor is currently in phase II clinical trials.

FK778, is a synthetic malononitrilamide that targets the critical enzyme of the de novo pyrimidine synthesis, dihydroorotic acid dehydrogenase, and receptor-associated tyrosine kinases has completed phase II trials. FK778 also shows antiviral activities that have been tested in patients with polyomavirus nephropathy.

Fingolimod (FTY720), a synthetic sphingosine phosphate receptor modulator that reduces the recirculation of lymphocytes to blood and peripheral tissues including inflammatory lesions and graft sites is undergoing phase III trials. Although the efficacy of fingolimod is similar to MMF in patients receiving full doses of ciclosporin, safety issues such as a negative chronotropic effect, macular oedema, pulmonary adverse reactions and graft function resulted in premature discontinuation of the development programme for kidney transplantation. Because there was no clear clinical benefit over treatment options, the clinical development programme of FK778 was discontinued.

Finally, a new evolving strategy with powerful induction-induced prolonged T-cell depletion followed by low-dose immunosuppressive monotherapy is showing promising results.