Comparison of sirolimus with azathioprine in a tacrolimus-based immunosuppressive regimen in lung transplantation

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011 Feb 1;183(3):379-87. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201005-0775OC. Epub 2010 Sep 10.


Rationale: Lung transplantation has evolved into a life-saving therapy for select patients with end-stage lung diseases. However, long-term survival remains limited because of chronic rejection. Sirolimus is beneficial in preventing cardiac rejection and may decrease rejection after lung transplantation.

Objectives: To determine the potential benefit versus risk of sirolimus in lung transplantation.

Methods: We conducted a multicenter randomized, open label controlled trial comparing sirolimus (SIR) with azathioprine (AZA) in a tacrolimus-based immunosuppressive regimen in lung transplantation. The primary end point was the incidence of acute rejection at 1 year after transplantation between the two study groups.

Measurements and main results: One hundred eighty-one patients were randomized to be included in this study. At 1 year after transplantation, there was no significant difference in the incidence of grade A acute rejection between the two study groups. Similarly, the incidence of chronic rejection and graft survival was no different between the two study groups. Cytomegalovirus infection was decreased in the SIR arm compared with the AZA arm (relative risk, 0.67 [95% confidence interval, 0.55, 0.82]; P < 0.01). There was a higher rate of adverse events leading to early discontinuation of SIR (64%) compared with AZA (49%) during the course of this study.

Conclusions: Sirolimus, an mTOR inhibitor, did not decrease the incidence of acute rejection at 1 year compared with azathioprine in lung transplantation. These results differ from previous results in cardiac and renal transplantation and emphasize the need for multicenter randomized controlled trials in lung transplantation. Clinical trial registered with (NCT 00321906).

Trial registration: NCT00321906.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Azathioprine / adverse effects
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use*
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / etiology
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Graft Rejection / drug therapy
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lung Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sirolimus / adverse effects
  • Sirolimus / therapeutic use*
  • Tacrolimus / therapeutic use*
  • Time Factors


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Azathioprine
  • Sirolimus
  • Tacrolimus

Associated data