Background: Sensitization to human leukocyte antigen (HLA) prolongs waiting list time and reduces allograft survival in solid organ transplantation. Current strategies for pretransplant desensitization are based on B-cell depletion and extracorporeal treatment. The proteasome inhibitor bortezomib allows direct targeting of the antibody-producing plasma cell and has been used in antibody-mediated rejection (AMR) and recipient desensitization with varying results. Here, we report the effect of bortezomib preconditioning on HLA antibody titers and specificity in highly sensitized patients awaiting renal allograft transplantation.
Patients and methods: Two highly sensitized patients awaiting third kidney transplantation were given one cycle of bortezomib (1.3 mg/m², days 1, 4, 8, 11), as part of recipient desensitization. Time-course and levels of anti-HLA antibodies, as well as specificity to previous transplant antigens were monitored by luminex technology. In addition, measles and tetanus toxoid immunoglobulin G (IgG) was measured.
Results: Following bortezomib, overall changes in IgG levels were small and no sustained reduction in anti-HLA class I or II antibody levels was observed over more than 100 days of follow-up to both, donor specific and non-donor specific antigens. Moreover, anti-measles and -tetanus toxoid IgG levels remained unchanged.
Conclusions: Bortezomib preconditioning alone does not result in sustained reduction of HLA antibody levels or alter protective immunity in sensitized patients. This supports the notion, that bortezomib requires activation of plasma cells, as in AMR, to effectively reduce HLA antibody production. Hence, in a pretransplant setting, combination strategies may be required to derive benefit from proteasome inhibition.
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