Rituximab for reduction of anti-HLA antibodies in patients awaiting renal transplantation: 1. Safety, pharmacodynamics, and pharmacokinetics

Transplantation. 2004 Feb 27;77(4):542-8. doi: 10.1097/01.tp.0000112934.12622.2b.


Background: Preformed HLA antibodies (Ab), reported as panel-reactive antibody (PRA), prolong patient waiting time for kidney transplantation. We hypothesized that rituximab (RTX) could reduce PRA via B-cell depletion. This initial study reports the safety, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of RTX in patients with end-stage renal failure.

Methods: The study was an investigator-initiated single-dose, dose-escalation phase I trial of RTX in chronic dialysis patients (PRA >50%). It was approved by the Institutional Review Board and the Food and Drug Administration. Nine subjects were treated with a single dose of RTX (n=3 per group) at 50, 150, or 375 mg/m. Peripheral lymphocyte cell surface markers and HLA Ab levels (%PRA and titers) were tested using flow cytometry.

Results: There were four significant adverse events: a suspected histoplasmosis infection; two Tenchkoff dialysis catheter infections; and fever (38.7 degrees C) during infusion. At 2 days after RTX therapy, there was depletion of CD19 cells (pre-RTX 181+/-137 vs. post-RTX 12+/-5.6, P =0.006). In 2 (22%) of 9 subjects, there was no appreciable change in PRA. Among the other seven patients, one had a decrease in PRA from 87% to 51% with a concurrent decrease in fluorescence intensity; five patients had changes in histogram architecture suggesting loss of antibody specificity; and one patient had a fourfold decrease in PRA titer from 1:64 to 1:16 at 6 months after treatment. In addition, one of the seven patients converted a donor-specific crossmatch to negative and underwent a successful living donor kidney transplantation.

Conclusions: RTX can be safely administered and may be an effective agent to reduce high-titer anti-HLA Abs in subjects awaiting kidney transplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies / analysis
  • Antibodies / drug effects*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacokinetics
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Female
  • HLA Antigens / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Kidney Transplantation* / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Preoperative Care*
  • Rituximab
  • Transplantation Chimera / immunology


  • Antibodies
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • HLA Antigens
  • Rituximab