Antibody Induction Therapy in Renal Transplant Patients Receiving Calcineurin-Inhibitor Immunosuppressive Regimens
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Acute rejection during the first year post-transplant is a key predictor of graft survival after renal transplantation. Use of induction therapy with a lymphocyte-depleting agent or an interleukin-2 receptor (IL-2R) antagonist can provide effective protection against rejection in the first critical weeks and months post-transplant. Polyclonal lymphocyte-depleting antibodies are associated with a low incidence of rejection but evidence of their benefit in terms of graft survival is lacking. Thymoglobulin® appears to offer superior graft outcomes compared with generic antithymocyte globulin (ATG). The most frequent adverse events are symptoms of cytokine release syndrome, leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, and tachycardia; data on whether polyclonal antibody use increases the risk of lymphoma are conflicting. Muromonab CD3 (OKT3), a monoclonal lymphocyte-depleting antibody, is efficacious but a high incidence of cytokine release syndrome and increased risk of post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease have limited its use. Following their recent introduction, the IL-2R antagonists basiliximab and daclizumab are now used widely, after randomized trials demonstrated that addition to calcineurin inhibitor-based therapy significantly reduced acute rejection by approximately 30–40%. Meta-analyses and registry analysis suggest that addition of an IL-2R antagonist may improve graft survival. The safety profile of IL-2R antagonists is indistinguishable from placebo, with no apparent difference in incidence of infection or post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease. IL-2R antagonists and polyclonal lymphocyte-depleting antibodies (with delayed cyclosporine) offer equivalent efficacy in standard-risk populations; in a trial of high-risk patients, acute rejection rate and graft outcomes were improved with Thymoglobulin®. Tolerability is superior with IL-2R antagonists: cytokine release syndrome and hematologic disturbances (notably leukopenia) are significantly more frequent with polyclonal antibodies. Cytomegalovirus infection may also be more common with lymphocyte-depleting antibodies. Thus, in patients at high risk of graft loss, Thymoglobulin® may be the preferred choice for induction therapy, while for all other patients, IL-2R antagonists should be considered first-line choice for induction therapy.