Short-term outcomes in kidney transplantation are marred by progressive transplant failure and mortality secondary to immunosuppression toxicity. Immune modulation with autologous polyclonal regulatory T cell (Treg) therapy may facilitate immunosuppression reduction promoting better long-term clinical outcomes. In a Phase I clinical trial, 12 kidney transplant recipients received 1-10×10 Treg per kg at Day+5 post transplantation in lieu of induction immunosuppression (Treg Therapy cohort). Nineteen patients received standard immunosuppression (Reference cohort). Primary outcomes were rejection-free and patient survival. Patient and Transplant survival was 100%; acute rejection-free survival was 100% in the Treg Therapy vs 78.9% in the reference cohort at 48 months post-transplant. Treg therapy revealed no excess safety concerns. Four patients in the Treg Therapy cohort had mycophenolate mofetil withdrawn successfully and remain on tacrolimus monotherapy. Treg infusion resulted in a long-lasting dose-dependent increase in peripheral blood Tregs together with an increase in marginal zone B cell numbers. We identified a pre-transplantation immune phenotype suggesting a high risk of unsuccessful ex-vivo Treg expansion. Autologous Treg therapy is feasible, safe and is potentially associated with a lower rejection rate than standard immunosuppression. Treg therapy may provide an exciting opportunity to minimize immunosuppression therapy and improve long-term outcomes.
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