Simultaneous corticosteroid avoidance and calcineurin inhibitor minimization in renal transplantation


J. Wesley Alexander MD, Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 231 Albert Sabin Way, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0558, USA. Tel.: +1 513 558 6006; fax: +1 513 558 3580; e-mail:


Steroids and calcineurin inhibitors (CNI) have been mainstays of immunosuppression but both have numerous side effects that are associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. This study was carried out to determine if steroids can be eliminated with early discontinuation of cyclosporine A (CsA) and later discontinuation of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF). Ninety-six patients with kidney transplants were entered into four subgroups of two pilot studies. All patients received Thymoglobulin® induction, rapamycin (RAPA), and the immunonutrients arginine and an oil containing ω-3 fatty acids. Mycophenolate mofetil was started in standard doses and discontinued by 2 years. CsA was given in reduced doses for either 4, 6, or 12 months. Follow-up was 12–36 months. Thirteen first rejection episodes occurred during the first year (14%). Combining all patients, 86% were rejection-free at 1 year, 80% at 2 years and 79% at 3 years. No kidney has been lost to acute rejection. Ninety percent of the 84 patients at risk at the end of the study were steroid-free and 87% were off CNI. Fifty-seven percent of 54 patients with a functioning kidney at 3 years were receiving monotherapy with RAPA. We conclude that this therapeutic strategy is worthy of a prospective multi-center clinical trial.