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Effect of once-per-day tacrolimus versus twice-per-day ciclosporin on 3-year incidence of chronic lung allograft dysfunction after lung transplantation in Scandinavia (ScanCLAD): a multicentre randomised controlled trial.

BACKGROUND: Evidence is low regarding the choice of calcineurin inhibitor for immunosuppression after lung transplantation. We aimed to compare the use of tacrolimus once per day with ciclosporin twice per day according to the current definition of chronic lung allograft dysfunction (CLAD) after lung transplantation.

METHODS: ScanCLAD is an investigator-initiated, open-label, multicentre, randomised, controlled trial in Scandinavia evaluating whether an immunosuppressive protocol based on anti-thymocyte globulin induction followed by tacrolimus (once per day), mycophenolate mofetil, and corticosteroids reduces the incidence of CLAD after de novo lung transplantation compared with a protocol using ciclosporin (twice per day), mycophenolate mofetil, and corticosteroids. Patients aged 18-70 years who were scheduled to undergo double lung transplantation were randomly allocated (1:1) to receive either oral ciclosporin (2-3 mg/kg before transplantation and 3 mg/kg [twice per day] from postoperative day 1) or oral tacrolimus (0·05-0·1 mg/kg before transplantation and 0·1-0·2 mg/kg from postoperative day 1). The primary endpoint was CLAD at 36 months post transplantation, determined by repeated lung function tests and adjudicated by an independent committee, and was assessed with a competing-risks analysis with death and re-transplantation as competing events. The primary outcome was assessed in the modified intention-to-treat (mITT) population, defined as those who underwent transplantation and received at least one dose of study drug. This study is registered at (NCT02936505) and EudraCT (2015-004137-27).

FINDINGS: Between Oct 21, 2016, and July 10, 2019, 383 patients were screened for eligibility. 249 patients underwent double lung transplantation and received at least one dose of study drug, and were thus included in the mITT population: 125 (50%) in the ciclosporin group and 124 (50%) in the tacrolimus group. The mITT population consisted of 138 (55%) men and 111 (45%) women, with a mean age of 55·2 years (SD 10·2), and no patients were lost to follow-up. In the mITT population, CLAD occurred in 48 patients (cumulative incidence 39% [95% CI 31-48]) in the ciclosporin group and 16 patients (13% [8-21]) in the tacrolimus group at 36 months post transplantation (hazard ratio [HR] 0·28 [95% CI 0·15-0·52], log-rank p<0·0001). Overall survival did not differ between groups at 3 years in the mITT population (74% [65-81] for ciclosporin vs 79% [70-85] for tacrolimus; HR 0·72 [95% CI 0·41-1·27], log-rank p=0·25). However, in the per protocol CLAD population (those in the mITT population who also had at least one post-baseline lung function test allowing assessment of CLAD), allograft survival was significantly better in the tacrolimus group (HR 0·49 [95% CI 0·26-0·91], log-rank p=0·021). Adverse events totalled 1516 in the ciclosporin group and 1459 in the tacrolimus group. The most frequent adverse events were infection (453 events), acute rejection (165 events), and anaemia (129 events) in the ciclosporin group, and infection (568 events), anaemia (108 events), and acute rejection (98 events) in the tacrolimus group. 112 (90%) patients in the ciclosporin group and 108 (87%) in the tacrolimus group had at least one serious adverse event.

INTERPRETATION: Immunosuppression based on use of tacrolimus once per day significantly reduced the incidence of CLAD compared with use of ciclosporin twice per day. These findings support the use of tacrolimus as the first choice of calcineurin inhibitor after lung transplantation.

FUNDING: Astellas, the ALF-agreement, Scandiatransplant Organization, and Heart Centre Research Committee, Rigshospitalet, Denmark.

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