Background: The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy and safety of induction treatment with antithymocyte globulins (ATG) followed by tacrolimus therapy with immediate tacrolimus therapy in renal transplant recipients.
Methods: This 12-month, open, prospective study was conducted in 15 centers in France and 1 center in Belgium; 309 patients were randomized to receive either induction therapy with ATG (n=151) followed by initiation of tacrolimus on day 9 or immediate tacrolimus-based triple therapy (n=158). In both study arms, the initial daily tacrolimus dose was 0.2 mg/kg. Steroid boluses were given in the first 2 days and tapered thereafter from 20 mg/day to 5 mg/day. Azathioprine was administered at 1-2 mg/kg per day.
Results: At month 12, biopsy-confirmed acute rejections were reported for 15.2% (induction) and 30.4% (noninduction) of patients (P=0.001). The incidence of steroid-sensitive acute rejections was 7.9% (induction) and 22.2% (noninduction)(P=0.001). Steroid-resistant acute rejections were reported for 8.6% (induction) and 8.9% (noninduction) of patients. A total of nine patients died. Patient survival and graft survival at month 12 was similar in both treatment groups (97.4% vs. 96.8% and 92.1% vs. 91.1%, respectively). Statistically significant differences in the incidence of adverse events were found for cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection (induction, 32.5% vs. noninduction, 19.0%, P=0.009), leukopenia (37.3% vs. 9.5%, P<0.001), fever (25.2% vs. 10.1%, P=0.001), herpes simplex (17.9% vs. 5.7%, P=0.001), and thrombocytopenia (11.3% vs. 3.2%, P=0.007). In the induction group, serum sickness was observed in 10.6% of patients. The incidence of new onset diabetes mellitus was 3.4% (induction) and 4.5% (noninduction).
Conclusion: Low incidences of acute rejection were found in both treatment arms. Induction treatment with ATG has the advantage of a lower incidence of acute rejection, but it significantly increases adverse events, particularly CMV infection.