Preliminary experience: In a consecutive case series (level V evidence) involving 10 recipients of unilateral lung transplantation (LT) with bronchiolitis obliterans, in conjunction with Fujisawa protocol 93-0-003, the physiologic responses to FK 506 (tacrolimus) "rescue" immunosuppression were assessed. Recipients were 22±18 months post-LT and demonstrated progressive allograft dysfunction that was refractory to pulsed-dose methylprednisolone therapy. All recipients received induction immunosuppression with Minnesota antilymphocyte globulin (10 to 15 mg/kg/d) for 5 to 10 days, cyclosporine (CsA) (whole-blood Abbott TDXTM> fluorescence polarization immunoassay (Abbott Inc, Abbott Park, IL)=600 to 800 ng/mL), azathioprine (2 mg/kg/d), and prednisone (tapered to 0.2 mg/kg/d). The "rescue" regimen consisted of oral FK 506 adjusted to maintain a whole-blood Abbott IMXTM microparticle enzyme immunoassay (Abbott Inc, Abbott Park, IL) of 10 to 15 ng/mL with an initial increase in prednisone (1.0 mg/kg/d) during conversion that was subsequently tapered to 0.2 mg/kg/d. Spirometry was performed monthly in accordance with accepted American Thoracic Society criteria. Recipients were classified in accordance with the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) "Working Formulation for Standardization of Nomenclature and for Clinical Staging of Chronic Dysfunction in Lung Allografts" as stages Ib (n=2), IIb (n=4), and IIIb (n=4) upon entry to the protocol. The ΔFEV1/month relationships during CsA- and FK 506-based regimens were analyzed by linear regression and compared by signed rank test (p<0.05).
Results: The ΔFEV1/month slopes were −0.0687±0.0221 and +0.0300±0.033 L/mo (mean±SEM) for CsA and FK 506, respectively (p=0.037). Although no significant spirometric improvement was noted in most recipients, no further decline in FEV1 occurred after conversion to FK 506. Recipients with less severe chronic dysfunction (ie, obliterative bronchiolitis [OB] stages Ib and IIb) stabilized their spirometric indexes at higher levels. Two recipients with OB stage IIIb died of hypercapnic respiratory failure at 6 and 8 months after conversion.
Conclusions: The ΔFEV1/mo slopes stabilized after FK 506 conversion. Earlier conversion may be beneficial in stabilizing FEV1 at a higher plateau. Significant economic impact may be anticipated with FK 506 compared to alternative cytolytic strategies for OB. However, multicenter prospective controlled investigations are necessary to further address the potential role of FK 506 after LT (level I evidence). Furthermore, the ISHLT "Staging of OB Syndrome" may have significant clinical implications vis-à-vis prognosis and potential therapies.