Challenges of calcineurin inhibitor withdrawal following combined pancreas and kidney transplantation: Results of a prospective, randomized clinical trial

Am J Transplant. 2020 Jun;20(6):1668-1678. doi: 10.1111/ajt.15817. Epub 2020 Mar 8.


In a phase 2 multicenter open-label randomized trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, simultaneous pancreas-kidney (SPK) recipients were randomized to a calcineurin inhibitor (CNI)-based immunosuppressive regimen (tacrolimus) (n = 21), or an investigational arm using low-dose CNI plus costimulation blockade (belatacept) with intended CNI withdrawal (n = 22). Both arms included induction therapy with rabbit ATG, mycophenolate sodium, or mycophenolate mofetil and rapid withdrawal of steroids. Enrollment and CNI withdrawal were stopped after 43/60 planned subjects had been enrolled. At that time, the rate of biopsy-proven acute rejection (BPAR) of the pancreas was low in both groups until CNI was withdrawn, with four of the five pancreas rejections occurring during or after CNI withdrawal. The rate of BPAR of kidney allografts was low in both control (9.5%) and investigational (9.1%) arms. Pancreas graft survival at 52 weeks, defined by insulin independence, was 21 (100%) in the control group and 19 (86%) in the investigational arm. One subject in the investigational arm died with functioning pancreas and kidney grafts. Renal function at week 52 was similar in both arms. Costimulation blockade with belatacept did not provide sufficient immunosuppression to reliably prevent pancreas rejection in SPK transplants undergoing CNI withdrawal.

Keywords: clinical research/practice; costimulation; diabetes: type 1; immunosuppressant-calcineurin inhibitor: tacrolimus; immunosuppression/immune modulation; pancreas/simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplantation; rejection: acute; sensitization.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcineurin Inhibitors
  • Graft Rejection / etiology
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control
  • Graft Survival
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Kidney Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Mycophenolic Acid
  • Pancreas
  • Pancreas Transplantation*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rabbits


  • Calcineurin Inhibitors
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Mycophenolic Acid