Ex-vivo delivery of monoclonal antibody (Rituximab) to treat human donor lungs prior to transplantation.

Terrance J.Y. Ku, Rafaela V.P. Ribeiro, Victor H. Ferreira, Marcos Galasso, Shaf Keshavjee, Deepali Kumar, Marcelo Cypel, and Atul Humar 2020 Oct; 60: 102994. doi10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.102994 PMCID: PMC7501077  PMID: 32950000 Full text at: – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7501077/

Background: Ex-vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) is an innovative platform for assessing donor lungs in the pre-transplant window. In this study, we demonstrate an extension of its utility by administering the anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, Rituximab, during EVLP. We hypothesized that this would lead to targeted depletion of allograft B-cells which may provide significant clinical benefit, including the potential to reduce latent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and decrease the incidence of post-transplant lymphoproliferative malignancies.

Methods: Twenty human donor lungs rejected for transplantation were placed on EVLP with (n = 10) or without (n = 10) 500 mg of Rituximab. Safety parameters such as lung physiology and inflammatory cytokines were evaluated. We measured the delivery efficacy through flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry and ELISA. An in-vitro culture assay, in the presence of complement, was further conducted to monitor whether B-cell depletion would occur in Rituximab-perfused samples.

Findings: Rituximab was successfully delivered to human lungs during EVLP as evidenced by flow cytometric binding assays where lung tissue and lymph node biopsies demonstrated occupied CD20 epitopes after perfusion with the antibody. Lymph nodes from Rituximab perfusions demonstrated a 10.9 fold-reduction in CD20+ staining compared to controls (p = 0.0003). In lung tissue, Rituximab resulted in an 8.75 fold-reduction in CD20+ staining relative to controls (p = 0.0002). This decrease in CD20+ binding illustrates the successful delivery and occupation of epitopes after perfusion with the Rituximab. No apparent safety concerns were seen as exhibited by markers associated with acute cell injury (e.g., proinflammatory cytokines), cell death (e.g., TUNEL staining), or pulmonary physiology. In a post-perfusion tissue culture model, the addition of complement (human serum) resulted in evidence of B-cell depletion consistent with what would be expected with posttransplant activation of bound Rituximab.

Interpretation: Our experiments illustrate the potential of EVLP as a platform to deliver monoclonal antibody therapies to treat donor lungs pretransplant with the goal of eliminating a latent virus responsible for considerable morbidity after lung transplantation.