Background: Until recently, there has been no practical alternative to the use of calcineurin inhibitors (CIs) as primary immunosuppressants in lung transplantation (LTx) and heart transplantation (HTx). Sirolimus (SRL) is a novel powerful immunosuppressant without renal toxicity, a common post-transplant problem associated with CI therapy.
Methods: SRL was used in 20 LTx and 5 HTx recipients >90 days post-transplant, where serious renal impairment was limiting CI dosing. Patients started on 2 to 5 mg/day orally at a median of 1,185 days post-transplant. Dosage adjustments were made according to trough levels, toxicity and perceived efficacy. With SRL initiation, 48% ceased CI therapy and the remainder decreased their dose substantively.
Results: After 30 days, 4 of 5 dialyzed patients ceased dialysis and 15 of 20 patients with an elevated serum creatinine (Cr) (mean Cr 0.29 mmol/liter) improved their Cr. The direction of change in Cr at 30 days predicted longer term Cr. The starting Cr did not predict the 30-day or long-term value. There were two bouts of acute and one bout of chronic rejection. There were 35 infectious complications in 16 patients and 24 episodes of potential SRL-related toxicity in 17 patients. These events generally responded to dose reduction or temporary cessation and were level-related. Fifteen recipients presently remain on the drug. None of the 7 deaths could be directly related to toxicity.
Conclusion: SRL is a useful alternative immunosuppressant, allowing significant CI withdrawal in transplant recipients with renal impairment. Whether the resulting improvement in Cr can be maintained in the long term probably depends on the balance between the extent of acute and chronic renal damage.