Mycophenolate mofetil versus azathioprine immunosuppressive regimens after lung transplantation: preliminary experience

J Heart Lung Transplant. 1998 Aug;17(8):768-74.


Background: Mycophenolate mofetil reduces episodes of biopsy-proven acute cellular rejection or treatment failure in the first year after kidney transplantation; however, limited data exist regarding the efficacy after lung transplantation.

Methods: In a 2-center, nonrandomized concurrent cohort study (level III evidence), we analyzed the incidence of biopsy-proven acute cellular rejection (International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation grade > or=A2) and decrement in pulmonary function during the first 12 months after successful lung transplantation. All patients received induction immunosuppression with antithymocyte globulin (< or=5 days' duration), cyclosporine and prednisone, in addition to either mycophenolate mofetil (2.0 g/d) [n=11] or azathioprine (1 to 2 mg/kg per day) [n=11].

Results: During the first 12 months after lung transplantation, the mycophenolate mofetil group experienced significantly fewer episodes of acute cellular rejection than the azathioprine group (0.26+/-0.34 vs 0.72+/-0.43 episodes/100 patient-days [mean+/-SD], p < 0.01; 95% CI for the difference=0.126 to 0.813). The change in forced expiratory volume -1 second [deltaFEV1] (liters) between the 3rd and 12th months after lung transplantation was analyzed for the two treatment groups. For this interval, deltaFEV1 for the mycophenolate mofetil group was +0.158+/-0.497 L vs -0.281+/-0.406 L for the azathioprine group (p < 0.05; 95% CI for difference=+0.0356 to 0.843). During the first year, there was 1 death in each group attributed to bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome with concurrent pneumonia. There were no differences in incidence of cytomegalovirus or bacterial infections between the treatment groups; however, a higher prevalence of aspergillus sp airway colonization in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid was observed for the mycophenolate mofetil group (p < .05). The prevalence of bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome at 12 months was 36% for the azathioprine group vs 18% for the mycophenolate mofetil group (p=NS).

Conclusions: Our preliminary experience with mycophenolate mofetil after lung transplantation suggests a decreased incidence of biopsy-proven acute cellular rejection. Furthermore, less decline in FEV1 after 12 months may suggest a reduced incidence or delayed onset for development of bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome. Prospective randomized trials with low beta error (level I evidence) should be performed to assess the efficacy of mycophenolate mofetil vis-à-vis acute allograft rejection and bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Lung Transplantation*
  • Mycophenolic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Mycophenolic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Mycophenolic Acid
  • Azathioprine