Combination CsA with corticosteroids is the most commonly used maintenance immunosuppressive regimen after cardiac transplantation, although their high-toxicity profiles frequently limit their clinical benefit. Immunosuppressive agents that would act synergistically with CsA but without the toxicity profile of corticosteroids would be clinically useful. Thalidomide was removed from the market due to its teratogenic effects, although it has known immunomodulatory activity. The purpose of this study was (1) to determine whether maintenance immunosuppression with thalidomide and subtherapeutic doses of CsA can help prevent rat cardiac allograft rejection; and (2) to compare its synergism with CsA to the commonly used corticosteroid, methylprednisolone. ACI-LEW allografts were all treated with subtherapeutic doses of CsA (10 mg/g/day, s.c) for 4 days. When CsA was then discontinued, severe rejection developed by posttransplant day 14. Group 1 received CsA alone. Group 2 received in addition oral thalidomide 100 rag/day for 14 days. Groups 3, 4, and 5 received CsA and methylprednisolone (low dose: 0.2 rag/kg/day s.c; moderate dose: 2.0 mg/kg/day s.c; and high dose: 20 mg/kg/day s.c Twelve histologic parameters of rejection were semiquantitatively graded 0-4, and total pathology scores were determined. The combination of thalidomide and subtherapeutic CsA significantly reduced the severity of myocardial necrosis, interstitial inflammation, interstitial edema, and the total pathology score. Thalidomide was found to be equally as effective as low-, moderate-, and high-dose methylprednisolone. The results of this study suggest the potential clinical role of CsA and thalidomide in maintenance immunosuppressive regimens, thereby avoiding the use of corticosteroids.
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