Background: Black American heart transplant recipients receiving cyclosporine-based primary immunoprophylaxis suffer higher rates of allograft rejection with hemodynamic compromise, infections, and posttransplant coronary artery disease. We examined the hypothesis that a combination of tacrolimus and mycophenolate mofetil "resurrects" clinical outcome of black Americans to those seen in white heart transplant recipients.
Methods: Sixty-three adult primary heart transplant recipients were included in this study. Twenty black American and 21 white patients who received tacrolimus-based primary immunoprophylaxis were enrolled in this prospective, observational parallel cohort investigation. A separate group of 22 black American patients were randomly allocated to receive cyclosporine-microemulsion-based primary prophylaxis and served as the control population for assessing outcomes in the black American group. Adjunctive immunosuppression included mycophenolate mofetil and corticosteroids. The primary end-point was the freedom from allograft rejection requiring treatment at 1 year. Secondary end-points included rejection with hemodynamic compromise, and patient or graft survival. Adverse events evaluated included development of infections requiring hospitalization and nonimmunological outcomes including hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus (new onset or worsened).
Results: Tacrolimus-treated black American patients had greater freedom from allograft rejection requiring treatment at 1 year than those treated with cyclosporine (64% vs. 37%, P=0.01). No differences were noted between tacrolimus-treated black Americans and whites in the primary end point (64% and 67% respectively, P=nonsignificant [NS]). Tacrolimus-based immunosuppression was associated with better 1-year survival in black Americans compared with cyclosporine (95% vs. 73%, P=0.04), and this end point was similar to that achieved in tacrolimus-treated white heart transplant recipients (95%). No differences in infection rates were noted among either group. Cyclosporine-treated black Americans suffered more hyperlipidemia and worse hypertension than tacrolimus-treated patients.
Conclusions: Compared with cyclosporine, an immunosuppressive strategy using tacrolimus in black Americans achieves superior efficacy with regard to allograft rejection, higher allograft survival, and similar safety. Furthermore, tacrolimus-based immunosuppression is similar in immunological efficacy and safety in black Americans and in white heart transplant recipients.