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Thursday 27th October 2016

Drug reverses transplant rejection

6th January 2009

A drug that has been used to treat multiple myeloma, or cancer of the plasma cells, also works when used in organ transplants, a recent study has found.


Bortezomib inhibits the body's tendency to reject transplanted organs, and its toxicity levels are significantly lower than those associated with other anti-cancer drugs.

Blood plasma made by B-lymphocytes (also called B-cells) plays a significant part in the body's activation of its own defenses in cases of transplantation.

A lack of direct activity against the mature plasma cell, which is the main antibody-producing cell, limits current antirejection therapies.

Bortezomib works directly on these antibodies, which create immune proteins and interfere with the transplantation.

The finding involved patients whose immune systems attacked their transplanted kidneys.

Although the recent study only involved six patients, the drug promptly reversed the rejection in each case. It also improved the function of the organs.

The patients, who had not responded to the usual treatments against transplanted organ rejection, were administered the drug by researchers working at the University of Cincinnatti in Ohio.

Bortezomib also provided at least five months of sustained reductions in antibody levels, acting against a recurrence of the rejection.

Steve Woodle, chief of transplant surgery at the University of Cincinnati, said that the finding would have significant implications for transplantation as well as autoimmune disease.

Bortezomib has already been shown to counteract the transplant rejection in laboratory studies.

Woodle's team is now beginning to conduct clinical trials.

Jason Everly of the University of Cincinnati said that the team was pleased to see that the toxicity levels for the drug were similar in transplant recipients suffering from mixed organ rejection which was resistant to other treatments.

In addition, the drug's side effects have been shown to follow a pattern doctors can predict and manage.

Woodle and his team of researchers started looking for agents that worked on plasma cells several years ago.

He says that it has become clear that plasma cells and the antibodies they produce play a bigger role in rejection than previously thought, and the development of therapies targeting these cells has lagged.

Everly said that the team hopes there will be a possibility of using bortezomib as a viable therapeutic treatment option in their hospital's group of patients.

Bortezomib is not currently approved for use as an antirejection therapy.

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