Experimental drug better for kidney transplant

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Washington, Mar 4 (ANI): The experimental drug belatacept are better than standard immunosuppressive drugs in preventing graft rejection in kidney transplant recipients and preserving kidney function, a new study claims.

Thomas C. Pearson, co-author of the study and co-director of the kidney/pancreas transplant program at Emory Transplant Center, noted belatacept's performance on "extended criteria" kidney transplants.

It refers to kidneys from donors that are older or have other factors associated with shorter graft survival.

The drugs most transplant patients rely on to inhibit their immune systems and prevent graft rejection have serious side effects.

Moreover, the class of drugs known as calcineurin inhibitors (cyclosporine and tacrolimus, for example) can damage the kidneys and lead to high blood pressure and diabetes.

The data from the BENEFIT (Belatacept Evaluation of Nephroprotection and Efficacy as First-line Immunosuppression Trial) trial, recorded 666 kidney transplants at 100 sites around the world.

It showed that patients taking belatacept had similar graft survival rates to those taking cyclosporine, while maintaining higher kidney function and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Also, belatacept can be given every few weeks, unlike calcineurin inhibitors, who have to take two pills every day.

The BENEFIT trial compared three regimens - a more intensive and a less intensive course of belatacept treatment and a standard cyclosporine course.

All patients received a temporary course of an anti-T cell antibody called basiliximab and the standard transplant drugs mycophenolate mofetil and corticosteroids.

After one year, the proportion of patients with impaired kidney function (defined through glomerular filtration rate) was 55 percent for more intensive and 54 percent for less intensive, compared to 78 percent for cyclosporine. Patients' blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar profiles were also more favorable with belatacept.

More patients experienced acute rejection under belatacept (22 percent for more intensive, 17 percent for less) compared to 7 percent with cyclosporine.

However, in most cases the acute rejection was successfully treated with drugs.

The study has been published in the March issue of the American Journal of Transplantation. (ANI)

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