Background: Recipient presensitization represents a major hurdle to successful renal transplantation. Previous case series have suggested that the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib directly affects the alloantibody-secreting plasma cells in rejecting allograft recipients. However, the ability of this agent to desensitize nonimmunosuppressed transplant candidates before transplantation is currently unknown.
Methods: In this analysis, two sensitized hemodialysis patients were selected to receive two subsequent bortezomib cycles. Bortezomib was given at 1.3 mg/m(2) on days 1, 4, 8, and 11. Dexamethasone was added to the second cycle to enhance treatment efficiency. Serial immune monitoring included cytotoxic panel reactive antibody testing, Luminex single antigen testing for anti-human leukocyte antigen (HLA) IgG with or without C4d-fixing capability, and ABO antibody detection.
Results: During a half-year follow-up period, cytotoxic panel reactive antibody decreased from 87% to 80% (patient 1) and 37% to 13% (patient 2). Patient 1 showed a 40% reduction in binding intensities of identified Luminex HLA single antigen reactivities and, in parallel, slight reductions in ABO blood group antibody and total immunoglobulin levels. In patient 2, bortezomib did not affect circulating antibody levels in a meaningful way. Both patients showed a more than 50% reduction in the levels of anti-HLA antibody-triggered C4d deposition to Luminex beads.
Conclusion: Our initial experience suggests that, without additional immunosuppressive measures, bortezomib has modest effects on circulating antibodies against HLA or blood group antigens. The reduced levels of antibody-triggered complement fixation, however, imply potential clinical relevance of proteasome inhibition for recipient desensitization.