The History of Immunosuppression
Since the transformational introduction of liver transplantation in the 1980s, there has been hope for patients with end-stage liver disease. Liver transplantation however is still far from the full cure it was intended to be.
As the transplanted organ is a foreign body, the immune system would naturally reject the organ. To prevent this, patients receive a cocktail of immunosuppressive medications such as corticosteroids, calcineurin inhibitors (such as tacrolimus), plus an antiproliferative agent (such as mycophenolate mofetil). However, this cocktail of medications is extremely potent and suppresses the patient’s immune system globally, leaving the patient open to attack by pathogens which cause serious infections. Importantly, global immunosuppression can also reduce the body’s natural defence against malignancy, namely, ‘immune surveillance’, leaving a patient open to develop cancer due to it not being recognised and cleared by the body.