Differential Treatment Effects for Renal Transplant Recipients With DSA-Positive or DSA-Negative Antibody-Mediated Rejection

Background: Antibody-mediated rejection (ABMR) is the main cause of renal allograft loss. The most common treatment strategy is based on plasmapheresis plus the subsequent administration of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). Unfortunately, no approved long-term therapy is available for ABMR. The current study was designed to analyze the effect of various ABMR treatment approaches on allograft survival and to compare treatment effects in the presence or absence of donor-specific antibodies (DSAs).

Methods: This single-center study retrospectively analyzed 102 renal allograft recipients who had biopsy-proven ABMR after transplant. DSA was detectable in 61 of the 102 patients. Initial standard treatment of ABMR consisted of plasmapheresis (PS) or immunoadsorption (IA), followed by a single course of IVIG. In case of nonresponse or recurrence, additional immunosuppressive medications, such as rituximab, bortezomib, thymoglobulin, or eculizumab, were administered. In a second step, persistent ABMR was treated with increased maintenance immunosuppression, long-term therapy with IVIG (more than 1 year), or both.

Results: Overall graft survival among transplant patients with ABMR was <50% after 3 years of follow-up. Compared to the use of PS/IA and IVIG alone, the use of additional immunosuppressive medications had no beneficial effect on allograft survival (p = 0.83). Remarkably, allografts survival rates were comparable between patients treated with the combination of PS/IA and IVIG and those treated with a single administration of IVIG (p = 0.18). Renal transplant patients with ABMR but without DSAs benefited more from increased maintenance immunosuppression than did DSA-positive patients with ABMR (p = 0.01). Recipients with DSA-positive ABMR exhibited significantly better allograft survival after long-term application of IVIG for more than 1 year than did recipients with DSA-negative ABMR (p = 0.02).

Conclusions: The results of our single-center cohort study involving kidney transplant recipients with ABMR suggest that long-term application of IVIG is more favorable for DSA-positive recipients, whereas intensification of maintenance immunosuppression is more effective for recipients with DSA-negative ABMR.


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