Abrogation of Anti-HLA Antibodies via Proteasome Inhibition

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Background.Current treatments for autoantibody-mediated diseases (i.e., systemic lupus erythematosus) and alloantibodies (in transplant) are minimally effective. Although they deplete naïve B cells, plasmablasts, and transiently reduce antibody concentrations, they are minimally effective against long-lived, antibody-producing plasma cells. In transplantation, plasma cells produce antibodies directed against human leukocyte antigen (HLA) antigens causing poor allograft survival. We report the first clinical experience with a plasma cell depleting therapy, bortezomib, to abrogate anti-HLA antibodies in transplantation (outside of rejection) in an attempt to improve long-term allograft survival.Methods.Eleven patients with anti-HLA alloantibodies were treated with bortezomib. All patients underwent plasmapheresis to aid in removal of antibodies and to determine the effect of bortezomib. Serial measurements of anti-HLA antibody levels were conducted weekly by single antigen bead on Luminex platform.Results.Bortezomib treatment elicited substantial reduction in both donor-specific antibody (DSA) and non-DSA levels. Antibodies were directed against DSA in 8 of 11 cases. Mean time to antibody appearance was 2 months posttransplant. Within 22 days (median) from treatment initiation, 9 of 11 patients’ antibody levels dropped to less than 1000 mean fluorescence intensity. Of two patients without successful depletion, all had peak mean fluorescence intensity more than 10,000. At a mean follow-up of approximately 4 months posttreatment, all patients have stable graft function. Minimal transient side effects were noticed with bortezomib in the form of gastrointestinal toxicity, thrombocytopenia, and paresthesias.Conclusions.Bortezomib therapy effectively abrogates anti-HLA antibodies. Hence, removal of antibodies, by proteasome inhibition, represents a new treatment strategy for transplantation and may have benefit in autoimmune-related disease.

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