Introduction: A previous trial in renal transplantation comparing sirolimus (rapamycin) to cyclosporine (CsA) in a triple-drug therapy regimen with azathioprine and corticosteroids found that the incidence of acute rejection was similar (approximately 40%) with a trend for better renal function with sirolimus.
Methods: In 14 European centers, first cadaveric renal allograft recipients were randomized to receive sirolimus (n = 40) or CsA (n = 38) in an open-label design. All patients received corticosteroids and mycophenolate mofetil 2 g/day. Sirolimus and CsA were concentration controlled; trough levels of mycophenolic acid and prednisolone were also measured.
Results: At 12 months, graft survival (92.5% sirolimus vs. 89.5% CsA), patient survival (97.5% sirolimus vs. 94.7% CsA), and the incidence of biopsy-proven acute rejection (27.5% sirolimus vs. 18.4% CsA) were not statistically different. The use of antibodies to treat suspected rejection episodes was also similar (7.5% sirolimus vs. 5.3% CsA). More sirolimus patients received bolus steroid therapy (20 vs. 11, P = 0.068). From month 2 onward, the calculated glomerular filtration rate was consistently higher in sirolimus-treated patients. The adverse events reported more frequently with sirolimus were thrombocytopenia (45% vs. 8%) and diarrhea (38% vs. 11%). In the CsA group, increased creatinine (18% vs. 39%), hyperuricemia (3% vs. 18%), cytomegalovirus infection (5% vs. 21%), and tremor (5% vs. 21%) were observed significantly more often.
Discussion: Patient and graft survival and the incidence of biopsy-proven acute rejection at 12 months were comparable between sirolimus and CsA, whereas safety profiles were different. These data suggest that sirolimus may be used as primary therapy for the prevention of acute rejection.