Randomized pilot trial of gene expression profiling versus heart biopsy in the first year after heart transplant: early invasive monitoring attenuation through gene expression trial

Circ Heart Fail. 2015 May;8(3):557-64. doi: 10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.114.001658. Epub 2015 Feb 19.


Background: The endomyocardial biopsy (EMB) is considered the gold standard in rejection surveillance post cardiac transplant, but is invasive, with risk of complications. A previous trial suggested that the gene expression profiling (GEP) blood test was noninferior to EMB between 6 and 60 months post transplant. As most rejections occur in the first 6 months, we conducted a single-center randomized trial of GEP versus EMB starting at 55 days post transplant (when GEP is valid).

Methods and results: Sixty heart transplant patients meeting inclusion criteria were randomized beginning at 55 days post transplant to either GEP or EMB arms. A positive GEP ≥30 between 2 and 6 months, or ≥34 after 6 months, prompted a follow-up biopsy. The primary end point included a composite of death/retransplant, rejection with hemodynamic compromise or graft dysfunction at 18 months post transplant. A coprimary end point included change in first-year maximal intimal thickness by intravascular ultrasound, a recognized surrogate for long-term outcome. Corticosteroid weaning was assessed in both the groups. The composite end point was similar between the GEP and EMB groups (10% versus 17%; log-rank P=0.44). The coprimary end point of first-year intravascular ultrasound change demonstrated no difference in mean maximal intimal thickness (0.35±0.36 versus 0.36±0.26 mm; P=0.944). Steroid weaning was successful in both the groups (91% versus 95%).

Conclusions: In this pilot study, GEP starting at 55 days post transplant seems comparable with EMB for rejection surveillance in selected heart transplant patients and does not result in increased adverse outcomes. GEP also seems useful to guide corticosteroid weaning. Larger randomized trials are required to confirm these findings.

Clinical trial registration: URL: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Unique identifier: NCT014182482377.

Keywords: cardiac transplantation; gene-expression profiling; graft rejection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling* / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Markers*
  • Graft Rejection / diagnosis*
  • Graft Rejection / etiology
  • Graft Rejection / genetics
  • Graft Rejection / mortality
  • Graft Rejection / pathology
  • Heart Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Heart Transplantation / mortality
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Pilot Projects
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Genetic Markers
  • Immunosuppressive Agents

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01418248