Background: Humoral alloresponses may contribute to chronic allograft nephropathy (CAN) in a subset of kidney transplant recipients. For chronic humoral rejection, the efficacy of rescue therapy with tacrolimus and mycophenolate mofetil has been suggested.
Methods: Eleven recipients with C4d-positive CAN (index biopsy performed after a median of 3 years posttransplantation), who had been on cyclosporine A-based immunosuppression, were converted to tacrolimus, and if not part of basal therapy, to mycophenolate mofetil. We evaluated the effect of this tacrolimus/mycophenolate mofetil rescue therapy on clinical outcomes and on alloantibody formation detected with flow cytometric testing of panel-reactive antibody.
Results: Tacrolimus/mycophenolate mofetil rescue therapy (plus anti-rejection treatment in six recipients with additional signs of acute cellular rejection) failed to prevent progressive deterioration of graft function. Four patients returned to dialysis after 4 to 18 months. Serial post-transplant serology detected HLA class I and/or II reactivity in seven recipients. Tacrolimus/mycophenolate mofetil therapy did not affect the time course of alloantibody levels. One patient with C4d-positive transplant glomerulopathy, who did not respond to tacrolimus/mycophenolate mofetil rescue therapy, developed nephrotic-range proteinuria associated with a rapid decline of allograft function. Despite considerable reduction in alloantibody levels and nearly complete clearance of C4d deposits, immunoadsorption failed to prevent graft failure in this patient.
Conclusion: Our data argue against the efficacy of tacrolimus/mycophenolate mofetil rescue therapy in established C4d-positive chronic allograft dysfunction. Prospective trials are needed to evaluate whether early initiation of this or other antihumoral strategies are capable of effectively preventing alloantibody-mediated chronic graft injury.