"Professor Tam's research could be life-changing for so many people like me."
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After four kidney transplants, four rejections and 20 years of dialysis, Paul is hoping that kidney transplant rejection can be prevented in patients whose immune system have become highly sensitised after many years of treatment.
- As a baby he had an operation to untwist ureter (which are the tubes that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder), but unfortunately he got reflux which caused his kidneys to fail.
- 7 years old: first kidney transplant. Kidney rejection controlled with medication for nearly 10 years
- 15 years old: second kidney transplant. It was not a success and started to fail after one week.
- Almost 16 years old: third kidney transplant. Had 20 sessions of plasma exchange to filter out antibodies to ensure transplant was a success.
- 23 years old: a shingles infection and encephalitis on the brain caused kidney function to drop. Began regular dialysis treatment three times a week, four hours a day and stayed on it for 15 years.
- 38 years old: forth kidney transplant. Within a week, antibody rejection caused the transplant to fail and has been on dialysis ever since.
The challenge? Your body’s immune system produces antibodies to fight off any germs or viruses it encounters, to keep you safe and healthy. But it will do the same with blood transfusions or organ transplants too – unless the new blood or organ is an exact match, and to be an exact match, it would have to come from an identical twin. For patients like Paul, his body has a huge amount of antibodies and his immune system is highly sensitised.
Professor Fred Tam has been researching to see if the drug fostamatinib could inhibit an immune system response after a blood transfusion – transfusions create the same immune response in the body as a transplant. Results showed when fostamatinib was given 24 hours after blood transfusion, it prevented the production of antibodies in a laboratory model. When we delayed the drug treatment by seven days there was still a small reduction in the number of antibodies.
Fred is in the middle of a five-year study with 10 patients who have had a kidney transplant in the past and are showing signs of chronic antibody mediated transplant rejection.
Fred hopes that that within the next 10 years, clinicians will be using fostamatinib to treat kidney patients, to stop their immune systems attacking their kidneys, and prevent kidney failure. This dream is within reach. But there is a lot more work to do.