The humanised monoclonal antibody daclizumab is an immunosuppressive agent that reduces acute rejection in renal transplant recipients. It is specific for the alpha subunit (Tac/CD25) of the interleukin-2 (IL-2) receptor on activated T cells and achieves immunosuppression by competitive antagonism of IL-2-induced T cell proliferation. Daclizumab has advantages over murine antibodies to the IL-2 receptor, including improved effector function, a low potential for immunogenicity and long elimination half-life. When added to standard cyclosporin-based immunosuppressive therapy with or without azathioprine, daclizumab (1 mg/kg prior to surgery and once every 2 weeks thereafter for a total of 5 doses) significantly reduced the 6-month rate of acute rejection compared with placebo in 2 phase III studies. The mean number of rejection episodes was significantly reduced and the time to first acute rejection significantly increased in daclizumab versus placebo recipients. Patient survival at 1 year after transplantation was significantly higher with daclizumab than placebo in 1 study and showed a trend in favour of the drug in the other study. The 1-year graft survival rate tended to be greater in daclizumab than in placebo recipients in both studies, In a phase II study, acute rejection rates in patients treated with both daclizumab and mycophenolate mofetil (plus standard cyclosporin-based immunosuppression) were lower than those achieved with mycophenolate mofetil alone. Preliminary results indicate that daclizumab is also a useful agent in paediatric renal transplant recipients. Further investigation of the efficacy and tolerability of the drug in this patient group is clearly warranted. Daclizumab does not increase the incidence of adverse events when added to standard cyclosporin-based therapy. The incidence of opportunistic infections, lymphoproliferative disorders and malignancies was not increased above that seen with placebo.
Conclusions: Although the effects of daclizumab on long term graft and patient survival require further investigation, available data indicate that daclizumab is an important advance in renal transplant immunosuppression, reducing acute graft rejection without affecting the tolerability of standard cyclosporin-based immunosuppression.