Withdrawal of Immunosuppression in Pediatric Liver Transplant Recipients (WISP-R)

Principal Investigator

Sandy Feng | University of California San Francisco | San Francisco, CA


San Francisco, CA
Chicago, IL

Study Code


Study Status



Currently, transplantation of a solid organ incurs a lifelong burden of immunosuppression for the recipient. In spite of many advances including the development of new agents, the basic premises of immunosuppression strategies remain unchanged and, as such, substantial metabolic, infectious and neoplastic complications continue to threaten the recipient’s life and well-being.

Several reports have, however, shown that a significant proportion of liver recipients (19% - 42%) can maintain normal allograft function without immunosuppression - the definition of functional tolerance. Although drug weaning in these studies did precipitate rejection in some recipients, the vast majority of episodes were graded as mild or moderate, were easily reversed and did not result in long-term consequences.

These reports provide the impetus for this study of gradual and complete immunosuppression withdrawal in a highly selected subgroup of liver transplant recipients: those who underwent living donor liver transplantation as a child (<18 years of age) four or more years ago for diseases other than viral hepatitis and autoimmune liver disorders and who continue to have excellent graft function. Candidates will be meticulously assessed for willingness and appropriateness to participate. Consent will then be obtained from both the liver donor and the liver recipient. It is anticipated that enrollees will typically enter on a minimalistic regimen, such that gradual withdrawal according to protocol can be achieved over six to twelve months. During and immediately after the weaning, recipients will be closely monitored to ensure expeditious recognition, diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment of liver dysfunction.

The primary clinical endpoints are the efficacy and safety of immunosuppression withdrawal in this select subgroup of liver transplant recipients. Therefore, analyses will target the success rate of primary or secondary withdrawal, the duration for which recipients remain off of immunosuppression, the overall incidence of rejection, the incidence of severe and/or refractory rejection and the timing of rejection.

This study also encompassess a complementary scientific effort to identify, quantify and characterize donor-specific immune responses and immunologic interactions which may predict or correlate with functional tolerance. The clinical protocol, which segregates study recipients into tolerant and intolerant groups, is designed to provide serial cell and tissue specimens before, during and after withdrawal for immediate as well as future mechanistic testing through Immune Tolerance Network core facilities.


Rosenthal P, Alonso EM, Ekong UD, Lobritto SJ, Feng S, Perito ER, Mohammad S. (2014) Posttransplant Metabolic Syndrome in the Withdrawal of Immunosuppression in Pediatric Liver Transplant Recipients (WISP-R) Pilot TrialAm J Transplant, 15(3), 779-85. DOI: 10.1111/ajt.13024 PMID: 25648649 PMCID: PMC4426259 [PubMed] [Reprint]

Feng S, Ekong UD, Lobritto SJ, Demetris AJ, Roberts JP, Rosenthal P, Alonso EM, Philogene MC, Ikle D, Poole KM, Bridges ND, Turka LA, Tchao NK. (2011) Complete immunosuppression withdrawal and subsequent allograft function among pediatric recipients of parental living donor liver transplantsJAMA, 307(3), 283-93. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2011.2014 PMID: 22253395 PMCID: [PubMed] [Reprint]

Feng S, Demetris AJ, Kanaparthi S, Ekong UD, Alonso EM, Rosenthal P, Turka LA, Ikle D, Tchao NK, Spain KM, Burrell BE. (2016) Five year histological and serological follow-up of operationally tolerant pediatric liver transplant recipients enrolled in WISP-RHepatology, 65(2), 647-60. DOI: 10.1002/hep.28681 PMID: 27302659 PMCID: PMC5159322 [PubMed] [Reprint]

Meeting Abstracts

Feng S, Ekong U, Lobritto S, Demetris A, Rosenthal P, Alonso E, Philogene M, Ikle D, Phippard D, Tchao N. Clinical and histological predictors of operational tolerance in pediatric liver transplant recipients. (Abstract #O-90) The 2011 Joint International Congress of ILTS, ELITA, & LICAGE, Valencia, Spain, June 22-25, 2011. [Abstract]

Ekong U, Tchao NK, Feng S, Demetris AJ, Ruppert K, Lobritto SJ. Prospective evaluation of histopathology biopsy features that predict successful weaning and comparison to protocol follow-up bi. American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), Boston, MA, October 29-November 2, 2010, 2010. [Abstract]

Feng S, Tchao N, Ekong U, Turka L, Phippard D, Stempora L, Kirk A. High Percentage of PD-1+ CD4+ T Cells in a Subset of Tolerant Pediatric Liver Recipients. (Abstract #A2) World Transplant Congress (WTC), San Francisco, CA, July 26-31, 2014. [Abstract]

Feng S, Ekong U, Demetris A, Rosenthal P, Alonso E, Kanaparthi S, Gao Z, Tchao N. Donor Specific Antibody (DSA) Does Not Predict Inflammation, Fibrosis, or C4d Score in 12 Tolerant Pediatric Liver Transplant (LT) Recipients: 5+Year Longitudinal Follow-Up. (Abstract #281) American Transplant Congress , Seattle, WA, May 18-22, 2013. [Abstract]

Phippard D, Feng S, Ekong U, Lobritto S, Demetris A, Rosenthal P, Alonso E, Ikle D, Philogene M, Tchao N. Clinical and histological predictors of operational tolerance in pediatric liver transplant recipients. (Abstract #152) American Transplant Congress , Philadelphia, PA, April 30 - May 4, 2011. [Abstract]

Feng S, Ekong U, Lobritto S, Demetris A, Rosenthal P, Alonso E, Tchao N. ITN029ST: Immunosuppression Withdrawal in Pediatric Recipients of Parental Living Donor Liver Transplants: Preliminary Results of a Pilot Study. (Abstract #189) American Transplant Congress, Boston, MA, May 30 - Jun 3, 2009. [Abstract]

Feng S, Demetris AJ, Ekong U, Girnita A, Kanaparthi S, Soppe C, Tchao N, Isse K. Serum and Tissue DSA Subclass, Stellate and Endothelial Phenotype Monitoring in ITN029ST Tolerant Pediatric Liver Transplant Recipients over 5+ Years of Follow-Up. (Abstract #O-47) Joint International Conference of ILTS, ELITA & LICAGE, London, UK, June 4-7, 2014. [Abstract]