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Reducing anti-rejection meds after transplant shows less complications

SAN DIEGO, Dec. 10 Transplant researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute have dramatically improved intestinal transplant graft survival, and reduced rejection and infection rates by successfully using a novel immunosuppression minimization protocol, thus improving patients' overall quality of life and avoiding the use of several anti-rejection drugs, which can cause serious infections and major complications. Because the intestine is especially prone to rejection and infection, results of this innovative clinical protocol presented today at the 3rd International Conference on Immunosuppression at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego, are significant and have the potential to advance the field of organ transplantation.

"Transplant recipients do not want to be overwhelmed with a lot of anti-rejection medications, which can often lead to more complications. The fact that we have been able to significantly reduce the amount of anti-rejection drugs in this group of patients has enabled many of them to live full and productive lives," said Kareem Abu-Elmagd, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.S., professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the Intestinal Rehabilitation and Transplant Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's (UPMC) Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute and lead author of the study.

Of the 123 small bowel patients (65 intestine, 25 liver/intestine and 33 multivisceral) who received transplants under the immunosuppression minimization protocol since July 2001, 109 recipients are alive with 107 having functioning grafts. One-year survival rate is 96 percent. Sixty-nine percent of patients are taking a single dose of immunosuppression, some once a day, while others twice a week.

The protocol involves giving a one-time pre-transplant dose of either the drug thymoglobulin a drug that kills and depletes T cells key immune system cells
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