Calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs) are standard of care after kidney transplantation, but they are associated with nephrotoxicity and reduced long-term graft survival. Belatacept, a selective T cell costimulation blocker, is approved for the prophylaxis of kidney transplant rejection. This phase 3 trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of conversion from CNI-based to belatacept-based maintenance immunosuppression in kidney transplant recipients.
Stable adult kidney transplant recipients 6–60 months post-transplantation under CNI-based immunosuppression were randomized (1:1) to switch to belatacept or continue treatment with their established CNI. The primary end point was the percentage of patients surviving with a functioning graft at 24 months.
Overall, 446 renal transplant recipients were randomized to belatacept conversion (n=223) or CNI continuation (n=223). The 24-month rates of survival with graft function were 98% and 97% in the belatacept and CNI groups, respectively (adjusted difference, 0.8; 95.1% CI, –2.1 to 3.7). In the belatacept conversion versus CNI continuation groups, 8% versus 4% of patients experienced biopsy-proven acute rejection (BPAR), respectively, and 1% versus 7% developed de novo donor-specific antibodies (dnDSAs), respectively. The 24-month eGFR was higher with belatacept (55.5 versus 48.5 ml/min per 1.73 m2 with CNI). Both groups had similar rates of serious adverse events, infections, and discontinuations, with no unexpected adverse events. One patient in the belatacept group had post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder.
Switching stable renal transplant recipients from CNI-based to belatacept-based immunosuppression was associated with a similar rate of death or graft loss, improved renal function, and a numerically higher BPAR rate but a lower incidence of dnDSA.
Clinical Trial registry name and registration number: A Study in Maintenance Kidney Transplant Recipients Following Conversion to Nulojix® (Belatacept)-Based, NCT01820572