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Kidney Transplant Drug Halves Early Rejection Risk

Update Date: Jul 28, 2014 02:32 PM EDT

A powerful drug given at the time of a kidney transplant operation minimizes the early risk of rejection by 50 percent, according to a new study. Further, the drug also allows a less toxic regimen of anti-rejection drugs to be used after the operation. 

Presenting the findings at the World Transplant Congress in San Francisco, researchers said they will help doctors faced with a difficult transplant conundrum:  the powerful combinations of treatments used to prevent early kidney rejection may cause kidney damage later and may subsequently be a cause of transplant failure. 

The study noted that one of the main culprits is a class of drugs known as calcineurin inhibitors. The drugs are quite effective at preventing rejection in the first weeks and months after transplant, however their lasting effects can have serious consequences for the kidney in later life. 

The study added that kidney transplantation is still the best treatment for patients with kidney failure but much more subtle approaches are needed if success rates are to be improved. 

'Our primary aim was to find out whether alemtuzumab-based induction therapy would produce worthwhile reductions in acute rejection,' explained Chief Investigator Professor Peter Friend, from Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, in the press release 'but we also wanted to see whether we could use it with a lower dose of tacrolimus, because there is some evidence that tacrolimus contributes to long-term transplant failure.'

The study findings are also reported in the journal The Lancet. 

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