Background: This paper reports the histopathologic results of 2-year protocol biopsies from patients who were enrolled in the U.S. FK506 kidney transplant study .
Methods: Recipients of cadaveric kidney transplants were randomized to tacrolimus or cyclosporine therapy. Patients active in the trial at 2 years after transplantation were approached for a protocol biopsy. Biopsies were scored by the Banff classification in a blinded fashion by one pathologist.
Results: A total of 144 patients (41.3% of those active at 2 years) had a 2-year protocol biopsy performed; 79 patients were treated with tacrolimus and 65 patients were treated with cyclosporine. Evidence of acute rejection was found in seven (8.9%) of the 2-year biopsies in tacrolimus-treated patients and six (9.2%) cyclosporine-treated patients. Chronic allograft nephropathy was found in 49 (62.0%) tacrolimus biopsies and 47 (72.3%) cyclosporine biopsies (P=0.155). There were no apparent histopathologic differences between the tacrolimus and cyclosporine biopsies. The occurrence of chronic allograft nephropathy was significantly higher in patients who received a graft from an older donor (P<0.01), who experienced presumed cyclosporine or tacrolimus nephrotoxicity (P<0.001), who developed a cytomegalovirus infection (P=0.038), or who experienced acute rejection in the first year after transplantation (P=0.045). A multivariate analysis showed that nephrotoxicity and acute rejection were the most significant predictors for chronic allograft nephropathy.
Conclusions: The occurrence of histologic acute rejection was rare at 2 years, confirming the absence of subclinical acute rejection in these late biopsies. A majority of the biopsies showed features consistent with chronic allograft nephropathy that was associated with acute rejection (particularly in cyclosporine-treated patients), nephrotoxicity, and cytomegalovirus infection in the first year. This suggests that nonimmunologic factors, such as drug-induced toxicity, may play an important role in chronic allograft nephropathy.