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New Therapies Could Change Organ Transplants
Date:1/23/2008

Three reports show some patients went five years without anti-rejection drugs

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Therapies that allow organ transplant recipients to stop taking powerful immunosuppressive drugs are starting to come to fruition.

"The next stage in the development of the transplant field is to completely withdraw those drugs and be able to have the lifesaving benefit of the transplant without the costs of the lifelong immunosuppressive drugs," said Dr. Samuel Strober, senior author of a paper describing one of these therapies and a professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.

The procedures, detailed in three reports in the Jan. 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, won't expand the pool of donor organs, but they could greatly improve the outlook for those who receive organ transplants.

"We hope it will make a major difference in how transplants are done," said Dr. David H. Sachs, senior author of one of the studies and director of the Transplantation Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "Patients don't have to take immunosuppressor drugs all their lives, which is one of the major problems with transplants. The drugs are wonderful, but they have complications."

Those complications can include cancer and, ironically, kidney damage.

"Doctors did a great job about developing the use of transplants for people who had [organ] failure. The problem is that all people who get transplants have to go on lifelong immunosuppressor drugs, and those have lots of side effects, especially when used for very long periods of time. They also have substantial financial costs," Strober said. "It's a lot better to get these patients off the drugs."

Some 5 percent to 7 percent of organ transplant fail every year even if the individuals take their drugs religiously.

Both Sachs' and Strober's research involved "t
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