Living Donor Kidney Transplantation in Patients With Donor-Specific HLA Antibodies After Desensitization With Immunoadsorption

Front Med (Lausanne). 2021 Dec 17;8:781491 doi: 10.3389/fmed.2021.781491.

Due to the current organ shortage, living donor kidney transplantation is increasingly performed across HLA (human leukocyte antigen) or ABO antibody barriers. There is still uncertainty about the risk of antibody-mediated rejection (AMR) episodes, which may limit long-term graft survival. From March 2007 to December 2016, 58 sensitized living donor kidney transplant candidates were identified and 38 patients eventually included in the study: 36 patients (95%) had pre-transplant and pre-desensitization Luminex-detected donor-specific HLA antibodies (DSA), and 17/36 patients (47%) in addition had a positive crossmatch result. Two patients had no detectable DSA but a positive CDC B-cell crossmatch result. Patients were treated with pre- and post-transplant apheresis and powerful immunosuppression including the anti-CD20 antibody rituximab (N = 36) in combination with thymoglobulin (N = 20) or anti-IL2 receptor antibody (N = 18). The results of the 38 successfully desensitized and transplanted patients were retrospectively compared to the results of 76 matched standard-risk recipients. Desensitized patients showed patient and graft survival rates similar to that of standard-risk recipients (P = 0.55 and P = 0.16, respectively). There was a trend toward reduced death-censored graft survival in desensitized patients (P = 0.053) which, however, disappeared when the 34 patients who were transplanted after introduction of sensitive Luminex testing were analyzed (P = 0.43). The incidence of rejection episodes without borderline changes were in desensitized patients with 21% similar to the 18% in standard-risk patients (P = 0.74). Thirty-six patients had pre-transplant HLA class I and/or II DSA that were reduced by 85 and 81%, respectively, during pre-transplant desensitization (P < 0.001 for both). On day 360 after transplantation, 20 of 36 (56%) patients had lost their DSA. The overall AMR rate was 6% in these patients, but as high as 60% in 5 (14%) patients with persistent and de novo DSA during year 1; 2 (40%) of whom lost their graft due to AMR. Eleven (31%) patients with persistent DSA but without de novo DSA had an AMR rate of 18% without graft loss while one patient lost her graft without signs of AMR. Our desensitization protocol for pre-sensitized living donor kidney transplant recipients with DSA resulted in good graft outcomes with side effects and rejection rates similar to that of standard-risk recipients. Adequate patient selection prior to transplantation and frequent immunological monitoring thereafter is critical to minimize rejection episodes and subsequent graft loss.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Case Series / Case Control / Cohort
KEYWORDS: antibody-mediated rejection (AMR); desensitization; donor-specific antibody (DSA); immunoadsorption; kidney transplantation