Title: Balancing immunosuppression in pediatric liver transplantation: playing the long game
Source: Pediatric Transplantation 2023, July 12. [E-publication]
Date of publication: July 2023
Publication type: Review article
Abstract: The overarching goal in the care of pediatric liver transplant recipients is to optimize allograft and patient health. Balancing immunosuppression to maintain allograft health while avoiding medication side effects is essential for long-term survival and optimal quality of life in pediatric liver transplant recipients. Utilizing precision medicine to personalize immunosuppression, which includes minimization and withdrawal, is core to this effort. The unique anatomy and physiology of the liver make it more tolerant to immune-mediated injury and a more favorable organ for immunosuppression minimization and withdrawal. However, several challenges exist. Standard biochemical values and histologic features may not reliably predict allograft health after a reduction in immunosuppression. Additionally, biochemical values alone do not reliably identify which patients can successfully develop operational tolerance, as there may be occult allograft injury despite normal liver enzymes. Finally, the durability of tolerance after successful reduction in immunosuppression remains uncertain over time. Innovative tools show promise in circumventing these challenges, but more research is needed to determine actual clinical utility. While immunosuppression-free transplant may not be a current reality for most pediatric liver transplant recipients, strategies to safely minimize immunosuppression without compromising allograft health are within reach. Each liver allograft and recipient pair requires a different degree of immune modulation, and through a structured process of minimization and withdrawal, immunosuppression can indeed be tailored in a precise, personalized way to optimize outcomes. This review focuses on the progress that has been made to individualize immunosuppression in pediatric liver transplantation to ensure optimal allograft and recipient health.