Background: Sirolimus (rapamycin) is a potent immunosuppressant with a mechanism of action different from cyclosporine (CsA) or tacrolimus.
Methods: In 11 European centers, first cadaveric renal allograft recipients were randomized to CsA (n=42) or sirolimus (n=41). Dosing of these agents was concentration-controlled and open-labeled. All patients received corticosteroids and azathioprine.
Results: At 12 months, graft survival (98% sirolimus vs. 90% CsA), patient survival (100% vs. 98%), and incidence of biopsy-confirmed acute rejection (41% vs. 38%) were similar. Serum creatinine was lower with sirolimus, significantly (P< or =0.05) so at 3 and 4 months, and serum uric acid and magnesium were normal. Laboratory abnormalities reported significantly more often with sirolimus included hypertriglyceridemia (51% vs. 12%), hypercholesterolemia (44% vs. 14%), thrombocytopenia (37% vs. 0%), leukopenia (39% vs. 14%), and, of lesser importance, increased liver enzymes and hypokalemia. These abnormalities improved 2 months after transplantation when the sirolimus target trough level was lowered from 30 to 15 ng/ml. Occurrence of cytomegalovirus was comparable (14% vs. 12%); incidences of herpes simplex (24% vs. 10%, P=0.08) and pneumonia (17% vs. 2%, P=0.03) were higher with sirolimus. No gingival hyperplasia was seen with sirolimus, tremor was rare, and hypertension was less frequent (17% vs. 33%). Two malignancies were observed with CsA and none with sirolimus.
Conclusions: Results at 12 months suggest that sirolimus can be used as base therapy in the prophylaxis of acute renal transplant rejection, and has a safety profile that differs from CsA.