Background: The challenge in renal transplantation is to improve long-term patient and graft survival without increasing early acute rejection by minimizing immunosuppression.
Methods: This multicenter, observational study investigated the effects of withdrawal of steroids or mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) from a tacrolimus-based triple regimen (tac/MMF/steroids) 3 months posttransplant at 3 years; no additional interventions or assessments were undertaken. Adult patients, included in the intent-to-treat population of the THOMAS study, participated. Patient and graft survival, adverse events, rejection episodes, and immunosuppressive and concomitant medications were assessed.
Results: Data at Year 3 was available for 718 patients (triple therapy, n=237; steroid stop, n=235; MMF stop, n=246). The original randomized regimen was maintained in 45.6% of patients in the triple, 62.6% in the steroid stop, and 53.9% in the MMF stop groups. Graft survival rates were 88.1% (triple), 86.4% (steroid stop), and 85.8% (MMF stop); patient survival was 96.1%, 95.9%, and 95.7%, respectively. The incidence of biopsy-proven acute rejection was similar in all groups between Month 7 and Year 3: 1.2% (triple), 2.0% (steroid stop) and 2.0% (MMF stop). Patients in the steroid stop group had less hypertension and significantly lower mean total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol at Year 3 compared with Month 3 (P=0.02). Median serum creatinine levels remained stable throughout the follow-up and were comparable between groups.
Conclusion: Immunosuppression minimization initiated at Month 3 was maintained at Year 3 in over half of the patients. Steroid withdrawal was advantageous in reducing the cardiovascular risk factors hyperlipidemia, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. Renal function was stable in all groups.