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Immunosuppressive drug combo keeps lung transplant patients alive longer

A combination of sirolimus and tacromilus provided a median survival rate of nine years in a recent study, two more than the current most commonly used drug combination.

By
Tauren Dyson
Lung transplant patients who took a mix of two immunosuppressive drugs, sirolimus and tacrolimus, saw their survival rate increase by about two years. File Photo by Guzel Studio/Shutterstock
Lung transplant patients who took a mix of two immunosuppressive drugs, sirolimus and tacrolimus, saw their survival rate increase by about two years. File Photo by Guzel Studio/Shutterstock

Aug. 29 (UPI) -- A new combination of medications may help patients live longer after lung transplant, new research shows.

Lung transplant patients who took a mix of two immunosuppressive drugs, sirolimus and tacrolimus, had a median survival rate of nearly nine years compared other medication, according to a study published Thursday in JAMA Network Open. The combination of cycle inhibitor mycophenolate mofetil and sirolimus is currently the most commonly used drug combination, with a 7.1 year median survival rate.

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"We postulated that an infrequently used regimen may make a difference in outcome," Aldo T. Iacono, the researcher at the University of Maryland Medical Center and study senior author, said in a news release. "What we found could improve survival of lung transplant patients on a larger scale."

Lung transplant patients have to take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives to stop chronic rejection of the organ. But these drugs make patients more susceptible to cancers and infections, two of the three leading causes of death following transplantation.

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The researchers analyzed data for more than 9,000 lung transplant patients, collected by the United Network for Organ Sharing, comparing drug regimens and survival rates. They found close to 5,800 patients received mycophenolate mofetil and tacrolimus, compared to more than 200 patients who took sirolimus plus tacrolimus.

While the sirolimus combination showed better results, it did have serious problems. It interrupts wound healing, a potentially deadly side effect if the drug is given too early after transplantation.

"Sirolimus is relatively novel in lung transplantation. Physicians and surgeons in the transplant community have little experience with it," Iacono said. "Because of that, many physicians may not have confidence in it. However, if we can extend the life of a lung transplant recipient by two years, you're talking a major accomplishment."

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