Background: Sirolimus (Rapamune; SRL) in combination with cyclosporine (CsA) reduces the incidence of acute rejection episodes in renal allograft recipients. This study evaluated whether renal function could be improved by elimination of CsA from an SRL-based regimen.
Methods: This phase 2, open-label, controlled, randomized study was conducted at 17 centers in the United States and Europe. Two hundred forty-six first cadaveric renal allograft recipients were enrolled, and 197 were randomized to full-dose CsA (microemulsion) plus fixed-dose SRL (2 mg/day; group A, n=97) or reduced-dose CsA plus concentration-controlled SRL (troughs 10-20 ng/mL; group B, n=100). Most patients with acute tubular necrosis-delayed graft function that resolved later than posttransplantation day 7 were not randomized but were assigned to a third group (nonrandomized, n=49) and received up to 5 mg per day of SRL as part of their individualized treatment regimen. All patients received standard doses of corticosteroids. At the end of posttransplantation month 2, eligible patients (those not treated for rejection within 3 weeks) in group B had CsA tapered and eliminated over the subsequent 4 to 6 weeks.
Results: At 12 months after transplantation, renal function was significantly better in the CsA-elimination arm. In patients who were on therapy and who had not experienced an acute rejection episode before month 6, serum creatinine level was significantly lower (1.38 mg/dL vs. 1.82 mg/dL, P < 0.001) and calculated glomerular filtration rate (Nankivell method) was significantly higher (73.5 mL/min vs. 57.1 mL/min, P < 0.001) in group B than in group A. In the intention-to-treat population, rates of biopsy-confirmed acute rejection at 12 months were similar between groups A and B (18.6% vs. 22.0%, respectively; P = 0.598). In addition, graft survival (92.8% and 95.0%) and patient survival (96.9% and 96.0%) rates at 12 months were not significantly different between groups A and B, respectively. Furthermore, there were no significant differences between black and nonblack recipients within treatment groups in terms of rejection rates and graft survival at 12 months. Black recipients in group B had better serum creatinine levels at 12 months compared with black recipients in group A (1.55 mg/dL vs. 2.69 mg/dL, respectively, P = 0.011), as did nonblack recipients in group B compared with nonblack recipients in group A (1.53 mg/dL vs. 1.75 mg/dL, respectively, P = 0.055). Black patients in group A had higher mean serum creatinine levels (2.69 mg/dL) than nonblack patients in group A (1.75 mg/dL, P = 0.028). Hypertension, edema, hypomagnesemia, and dyspnea were reported significantly less frequently in patients randomly assigned to undergo CsA elimination compared with patients in group A (P < 0.05); group B patients had a significantly greater (P < 0.05) incidence of abnormal liver function tests, diarrhea, hypokalemia, and thrombocytopenia.
Conclusion: Concentration-controlled SRL with early elimination of CsA is safe and results in improved renal function. Reduced exposure to CsA does not result in a clinically significant increase in the incidence of acute rejection episodes. This is true for both black and nonblack recipients. SRL may be used to reduce the exposure of renal allograft recipients to the nephrotoxic effects of CsA.