The number of elderly people has increased considerably over the last decades, due to a rising life expectancy and ageing populations. As a result, an increased number of elderly with end-stage-renal-disease are diagnosed, for which the preferred treatment is renal transplantation. Over the past years the awareness of the elderly as a specific patient population has grown, which increases the importance of research in this group.
Elderly patients often receive kidneys from elderly donors while younger donor kidneys are preferentially reserved for younger recipients. Although the rate of acute rejection after transplantation is lower in the elderly, these rejections may lead to graft loss more frequently, as kidneys from elderly donors have marginal reserve capacity. To prevent acute rejection, immunosuppressive therapy is needed. On the other hand, elderly patients have a higher risk to die from infectious complications, and thus less immunosuppression would be preferable.
Immunosuppressive treatment in the elderly is complicated further by changes in the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, with increasing age. Adjustments in standard immunosuppressive regimes are therefore suggested for this population.
An unmet need in transplantation medicine is a tool to guide a personalized approach to immunosuppression. Recently several promising biomarkers that identify injury to the graft at an early stage or predict acute rejection have been identified. Unfortunately, none of these biomarkers were tested specifically in the elderly. We believe there is an urgent need to perform clinical trials investigating novel immunosuppressive regimens in conjunction with biomarker studies in this specific population.