National trial gives 'unprecedented' support for steroid withdrawal in kidney transplants

CINCINNATI--Preliminary results of a study led by University of Cincinnati (UC) scientists suggest that reducing corticosteroid treatment in kidney transplant patients significantly lowers the toxic side effects of anti-rejection drugs without affecting survival rates.

Steroids are typically given in combination with other drugs that help suppress the body's immune system and allow the transplanted organ to function properly. Previous research has linked them to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes and cataracts. In adolescent and pediatric patients, the drugs can even hinder physical growth.

"When you ask transplant patients about their medicines, they say the drug they dislike most is steroids. They don't want to take steroids because of what the drugs do to their bodies," says Steve Woodle, MD, director of transplantation at UC and principal investigator for the study. "They see how the drug's toxicity affects their bodies--their faces swell, they gain weight, they bruise easily--and they know steroids are the cause."

Despite the known negative side effects, says Woodle, physicians have feared that removing them would increase the risk for organ rejection.

"This study shows that, when used in combination with the right immunosuppressive agents, we can minimize that risk for rejection while also reducing the negative side effects associated with steroid use," says Woodle.

Specifically, he says, a seven-day treatment with synthetic steroids known as corticosteroids, in conjunction with immunosuppressive agents, is as effective as long-term corticosteroid therapy in kidney transplant patients three years after transplant.

The Cincinnati team's findings were reported today (July 24) at the meeting of the World Transplant Congress in Boston, Mass.

This UC-led multicenter trial is the first in which corticosteroids were removed prior

Contact: Amanda Harper
University of Cincinnati

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