Recent studies have shown that a high density of CD 20+ cells are seen in patients who have steroid-resistant rejection episodes. Rituximab is a high-affinity CD-20 specific antibody that inhibits B-cell proliferation while inducing cellular apoptosis. Thus, it is a rational choice for therapy in transplantation to abrogate B-cell-mediated events.
Twenty-seven patients were diagnosed with biopsy-confirmed rejection manifested by thrombotic microangiopathy and/or endothelialitis between 2/99 and 2/02 at our institution. These individuals were treated with a single dose of rituximab, in addition to other therapies, in an effort to reverse their rejection episodes. Twenty-four received additional steroids while 22 of the 27 patients were also treated with plasmapheresis and antithymocyte globulin (ATG). Only three patients experienced graft loss not associated with patient death during the follow-up period (605 ± 335.3 days). In the 24 successfully treated patients, the serum creatinine at the time of initiating rituximab therapy was 5.6 ± 1.0 mg/dL and decreased to 0.95 ± 0.7 mg/dL at discharge.
The addition of rituximab may improve outcomes in severe, steroid-resistant or antibody-mediated rejection episodes after kidney transplantation.