Cancer drug effectively treats kidney transplant rejections

December 27th, 2008 - 1:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 27 (IANS) Researchers have discovered that a cancer drug can effectively treat organ rejection.Steve Woodle of University of Cincinnati (U-C) and colleagues found that the drug bortezomib, used to treat cancer of plasma cells, is effective in treating rejection episodes caused by antibodies that target transplanted kidneys and reversing rejection episodes that did not respond to standard therapies.

B-lymphocytes, or B cells, play a large role in human immune response by making immune proteins that attack transplanted organs.

“We found a body of literature demonstrating that bortezomib works well in suppressing transplant rejection in the laboratory,” said Woodle, co-author of the study and chief of transplant surgery at UC.

“Moreover, it worked well in models of autoimmune diseases.”

T-lymphocytes, or T cells, are white blood cells that were commonly thought to cause the rejection of transplanted organs. Woodle and his team began searching for agents that targeted plasma cells in 2005.

“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,” he said.

“We realised that current therapies don’t target the plasma cells which may produce the antibody, in general.”

Researchers administered this drug to six kidney transplant recipients with treatment-resistant organ rejection, evaluating and recording their responses to the treatment, said a UC release.

In each case, treatment with the drug provided prompt rejection reversal, prolonged reductions in antibody levels and improved organ function with suppression of recurrent rejection for at least five months.

Jason Everly, a board-certified oncology pharmacist in the division of transplant surgery at UC and co-author of the study, says the toxicities associated with this drug were predictable and manageable and were much less than those associated with other anti-cancer agents.

UC researchers are currently conducting four industry-supported clinical trials to expand these findings.

Results of the study were published in the Saturday edition of Transplantation.

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