Drug provides better kidney transplant survival rates than current standard of care

A study of kidney transplant recipients has shown for the first time that the drug belatacept, which controls the immune system and prevents graft rejection, has a better record of patient and organ survival than a calcineurin inhibitor, previously the standard of care.

Emory University School of Medicine dean and professor of surgery Christian Larsen, MD, DPhil, played a key role in developing belatacept, together with Emory Transplant Center executive director Thomas Pearson, MD, DPhil. Belatacept was approved by the FDA in 2011 and is produced by Bristol Myers Squibb. Dr. Larsen is a faculty member in the IMP program.

Results from the worldwide study, led by Larsen and UCSF transplant specialist Flavio Vincenti, were published in the Jan. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Kidney transplant recipients need to take drugs to prevent their immune systems from rejecting their new organs, but the drugs themselves can cause problems. Long-term use of calcineurin inhibitors can damage the transplanted kidneys and lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Belatacept acts as a “co-stimulation blocker,” inhibiting one of two signals T cells needed to trigger an immune response. Belatacept carries short-term risks that include an increased possibility for a certain cancer, and research continues at Emory on the best regimens for kidney transplant patients.

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