Background: Obliterative bronchiolitis remains the leading cause of late mortality after heart-lung and lung transplantation. Although several treatment options have been advocated, none has proven to be very successful. Cyclophosphamide is effective in the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and chronic rejection after lung transplantation is also a fibroproliferative process. We therefore conducted an open, uncontrolled study to look at the effect of cyclophosphamide rescue therapy in the treatment of chronic rejection in lung transplant recipients.
Methods: Between October 1996 and March 1998 cyclophosphamide was prescribed to 7 patients with chronic and persistent rejection who failed to respond to conventional therapy (pulse steroids or antilymphocyte products or both).
Results: Cyclophosphamide therapy was initiated on postoperative day 478+/-366. At that time 2 patients were in bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome stage 0, 3 patients in stage 1, and 2 patients in stage 2. Their best postoperative forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) was 2.19+/-0.75 L. Three months before the start of cyclophosphamide the FEV1 had declined to 1.90+/-0.83 L, with a further decline to 1.63+/-0.64 L at the time of initiating cyclophosphamide. In 6 of the 7 patients the FEV1 stabilized or increased after cyclophosphamide had been started (mean FEV1 3 and 6 months after cyclophosphamide of 1.77+/-0.58 L and 1.79+/-0.48 L, respectively). One patient died 18 months after the introduction of cyclophosphamide due to progressive obliterative bronchiolitis. In one patient cyclophosphamide had to be stopped because of persistent leucopenia.
Conclusions: Cyclophosphamide might be a promising therapeutic alternative for the treatment of chronic persistent rejection after lung transplantation.