Elevation of Donor-derived Cell-free DNA Before Biopsy-proven Rejection in Kidney Transplant

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BACKGROUND: Standard-of-care biomarkers for renal allograft rejection are lagging indicators, signaling existing organ injury. This precludes early intervention, when immunological cascades leading to rejection are most susceptible. Donor-derived cell-free DNA (dd-cfDNA) shows promise as an early indicator of rejection, allowing earlier and possibly more effective treatment. This analysis was designed to assess this promise using real-world dd-cfDNA testing evidence.

METHODS: This retrospective analysis of the prospective, observational ProActive registry study (NCT04091984) assessed dd-cfDNA and serum creatinine levels before biopsy in 424 patients with ≥1 dd-cfDNA test (n = 1013) in the 6 mo before biopsy.

RESULTS: Of 4667 enrolled patients, 1631 patients had ≥18 mo of follow-up data, of which 424 had a biopsy and were included in this analysis. Twenty-six biopsies showed antibody-mediated rejection (ABMR), 62 showed T cell-mediated rejection, and 336 showed nonrejection; each from a unique patient. dd-cfDNA fractions were significantly elevated 5 mo before ABMR biopsies, and 2 mo before T cell-mediated rejection biopsies, compared with nonrejection biopsies. In contrast, serum creatinine did not discriminate between rejection and nonrejection in advance, or concurrent with biopsy. Among patients with nonrejection biopsies, estimated glomerular filtration rate was significantly lower in cases with ≥2 increased dd-cfDNA results (≥1%), compared with those with 0 or 1 increased dd-cfDNA result.

CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that dd-cfDNA is an early indicator of biopsy-proven rejection, especially ABMR, suggesting a greater role for dd-cfDNA in surveillance to identify patients at high risk of ongoing or future rejection, thus requiring closer monitoring, biopsy, or other management changes.

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ePub ahead of print