Background: The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy and safety of Thymoglobulin (a rabbit-derived polyclonal antibody) to Atgam (a horse-derived polyclonal antibody) for induction in adult renal transplant recipients.
Methods: Transplant recipients (n=72) were randomized 2:1 in a double-blinded fashion to receive Thymoglobulin (n=48) at 1.5 mg/kg intravenously or Atgam (n=24) at 15 mg/kg intravenously, intraoperatively, then daily for at least 6 days. Recipients were observed for at least 1 year of follow-up.
Results: By 1 year after transplantation, 4% of Thymoglobulin-treated patients experienced acute rejection compared with 25% of Atgam-treated patients (P=0.014). The rate of acute rejection was lower with Thymoglobulin than Atgam (relative risk=0.09; P=0.009). Rejection was less severe with Thymoglobulin than Atgam (P=0.02). No recurrent rejection occurred with Thymoglobulin compared with 33% with Atgam (P=NS). Patient survival was not different, but the composite end point of freedom from death, graft loss, or rejection, the "event-free survival," was superior with Thymoglobulin (94%) compared with Atgam (63%; P=0.0005). Fewer adverse events occurred with Thymoglobulin (P=0.013). Leukopenia was more common with Thymoglobulin than Atgam (56% vs. 4%; P<0.0001) during induction. The mean absolute lymphocyte count remained below baseline with Thymoglobulin throughout the study (P<0.007), but with Atgam, significant lymphocyte reductions occurred only at day 7. The incidence of cytomegalovirus disease was less with Thymoglobulin than Atgam at 6 months (10% vs. 33%; P=0.025).
Conclusions: Brief (7-day) induction with Thymoglobulin resulted in less frequent and less severe rejection, a better event-free survival, less cytomegalovirus disease, fewer serious adverse events, but more frequent early leukopenia than induction with Atgam. These results may in fact be explained by a more profound and durable beneficial lymphopenia.