Treatment strategies in pediatric solid organ transplant recipients with calcineurin inhibitor-induced nephrotoxicity

Burkhard Tönshoff, Britta Höcker
Pediatric Transplantation 2006, 10 (6): 721-9
Although short-term kidney allograft survival has improved significantly since the introduction of the calcineurin inhibitors (CNI) cyclosporine A (CsA) and tacrolimus, long-term transplant survival remains a major concern, chronic allograft nephropathy (CAN) being the principal reason for graft loss after the first post-transplant year. This is particularly major for pediatric renal transplant recipients because of their higher life expectancy compared with adults. The mechanisms leading to CAN are multiple, including acute and chronic alloimmune responses and nephrotoxicity of CNIs. CNI-induced nephrotoxicity is also a long-term concern in other pediatric solid organ transplant recipients, such as liver and heart. Prevention of allograft nephropathy requires a balance of maintaining adequate immunosuppression, while avoiding the toxic effects of CNIs. Regimens that are based on mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) alone or in combination with newer agents may allow for reduced reliance on CNIs and thus may represent an effective treatment paradigm for long-term maintenance of a renal allograft. From the available data it appears that the currently safest treatment strategy in pediatric renal and heart transplant recipients with CNI toxicity is an MMF-based therapy with low-dose CNIs +/- low-dose steroids, while in pediatric liver transplant recipients, CNI-free MMF-based immunosuppressive therapy with or without steroids appears feasible in a significant subset of patients. In renal transplant recipients, the benefit of a CNI-free MMF/steroid therapy on renal function is gained at the cost of increased rejection in a subset of patients, although the relative importance of rejection vs. overall renal function requires further clinical investigation. The introduction of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors provides an opportunity for unique CNI-sparing regimens that combine two antiproliferative agents (MMF and TOR inhibitors). It is possible that a sirolimus-based CNI-free immunosuppressive regimen in terms of renal transplant survival is superior to CNI minimization, where the detrimental effects of CNIs on allograft function and structure are still operative, albeit to a lesser degree. Substitution of CNIs by mTOR inhibitors is therefore promising, but requires validation in long-term studies in large cohorts.

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