Background: Tacrolimus (FK506), a macrolide molecule that potently inhibits the expression of interleukin 2 by T lymphocytes, represents a potential major advance in the management of rejection following solid-organ transplantation. This randomized, open-label study compared the efficacy and safety of tacrolimus-based versus cyclosporine-based immunosuppression in patients receiving cadaveric kidney transplants.
Methods: A total of 412 patients were randomized to tacrolimus (n=205) or cyclosporine (n=207) after cadaveric renal transplantation and were followed for 1 year for patient and graft survival and the incidence of acute rejection.
Results: One-year patient survival rates were 95.6% for tacrolimus and 96.6% for cyclosporine (P=0.576). Corresponding 1-year graft survival rates were 91.2% and 87.9% (P=0.289). There was a significant reduction in the incidence of biopsy-confirmed acute rejection in the tacrolimus group (30.7%) compared with the cyclosporine group (46.4%, P=0.001), which was confirmed by blinded review, and in the use of antilymphocyte therapy for rejection (10.7% and 25.1%, respectively; P<0.001). Impaired renal function, gastrointestinal disorders, and neurological complications were commonly reported in both treatment groups, but tremor and paresthesia were more frequent in the tacrolimus group. The incidence of posttransplant diabetes mellitus was 19.9% in the tacrolimus group and 4.0% in the cyclosporine group (P<0.001), and was reversible in some patients.
Conclusions: Tacrolimus is more effective than cyclosporine in preventing acute rejection in cadaveric renal allograft recipients, and significantly reduces the use of antilymphocyte antibody preparations. Tacrolimus was associated with a higher incidence of neurologic events, which were rarely treatment limiting, and with posttransplant diabetes mellitus, which was reversible in some patients.