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1.  Tackling mantle cell lymphoma (MCL): Potential benefit of allogeneic stem cell transplantation 
Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL) associated with poor progression-free and overall survival. There is a high relapse rate with conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy. Intensive combination chemotherapy including rituximab, dose intense CHOP- (cyclophosphamide-doxorubicin-vincristine-prednisone) like regimens, high dose cytarabine, and/or consolidation with autologous stem cell transplant (autoSCT) have shown promise in significantly prolonging remissions. Data from phase II studies show that even in patients with chemotherapy refractory MCL, allogeneic stem cell transplant (alloSCT) can lead to long term disease control. Most patients with MCL are not candidates for myeloablative alloSCT due to their age, comorbidities, and performance status. The advent of less toxic reduced intensity conditioning (RIC) regimens, which rely more on the graft-versus-lymphoma (GVL) effect, have expanded the population of patients who would be eligible for alloSCT. RIC regimens alter the balance of toxicity and efficacy favoring its use. Treatment decisions are complicated by introduction of novel agents which are attractive options for older, frail patients. Further studies are needed to determine the role and timing of alloSCT in MCL. Currently, for selected fit patients with chemotherapy resistant MCL or those who progress after autoSCT, alloSCT may provide long term survival.
PMCID: PMC3781733  PMID: 24198514
mantle cell lymphoma; allogeneic SCT; nonmyeloablative; GVL
2.  Allogeneic stem cell transplantation for acute myeloid leukemia in first complete remission: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective clinical trials 
The optimal treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in first complete remission (CR1) is uncertain. Current consensus, based on cytogenetic risk, recommends myeloablative allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) for poor-risk but not for good-risk AML. AlloSCT, autologous transplant and consolidation chemotherapy are considered of equivalent benefit for intermediate-risk AML. We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective trials evaluating alloSCT versus non-alloSCT therapies for AML-CR1.
To quantify relapse-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) benefit of alloSCT for AML in CR1. In subgroup analyses, RFS and OS benefit of alloSCT was determined for good-, intermediate- and poor-risk AML.
Combining the search terms: ‘allogeneic’; ‘acut*’ and ‘leukem*/leukaem*/leucem*/leucaem*/aml’; ‘myelo*’ or ‘nonlympho*’, we searched the PubMed, Embase and Cochrane Registry of Controlled Trials databases in March 2009. 1712 articles were accessed.
Study Selection
Prospective trials assigning adult AML-CR1 patients to alloSCT versus non-alloSCT treatment(s) based on donor availability, and reporting RFS and/or OS outcomes on intent-to-treat, donor versus no-donor basis were identified.
Data Extraction
Two reviewers independently extracted study characteristics, interventions, and outcomes. Hazard ratios (HR) (with 95% CI) were determined.
Data Synthesis
24 trials and 6,007 patients were analyzed. Inter-study heterogeneity was not significant. Fixed effects meta-analysis was performed. HR of relapse or death with alloSCT for AML-CR1 was 0.80 (0.74–0.86). Significant RFS benefit of alloSCT was documented for poor-risk (HR 0.69 (0.57–0.84)) and intermediate-risk AML (HR 0.76 (0.68–0.85)); but not for good-risk AML (HR 1.06 (0.80–1.42)). HR of death with alloSCT for AML-CR1 was 0.90 (0.82–0.97). Significant OS benefit of alloSCT was documented for poor-risk (HR 0.73 (0.59–0.90)) and intermediate-risk AML (HR 0.83 (0.74–0.93)); but not for good-risk AML (HR 1.07 (0.83–1.38)).
AlloSCT has significant RFS and OS benefit for intermediate- and for poor-risk AML, but not for good-risk AML in CR1.
PMCID: PMC3163846  PMID: 19509382
acute myeloid leukemia; allogeneic transplantation; meta-analysis
3.  Iron Overload during Follow-up after Tandem High-Dose Chemotherapy and Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation in Patients with High-Risk Neuroblastoma 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2012;27(4):363-369.
Multiple RBC transfusions inevitably lead to a state of iron overload before and after high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation (HDCT/autoSCT). Nonetheless, iron status during post-SCT follow-up remains unknown. Therefore, we investigated post-SCT ferritin levels, factors contributing to its sustained levels, and organ functions affected by iron overload in 49 children with high-risk neuroblastoma who underwent tandem HDCT/autoSCT. Although serum ferritin levels gradually decreased during post-SCT follow-up, 47.7% of the patients maintained ferritin levels above 1,000 ng/mL at 1 yr after the second HDCT/autoSCT. These patients had higher serum creatinine (0.62 vs 0.47 mg/mL, P = 0.007) than their counterparts (< 1,000 ng/mL). Post-SCT transfusion amount corresponded to increased ferritin levels at 1 yr after the second HDCT/autoSCT (P < 0.001). A lower CD34+ cell count was associated with a greater need of RBC transfusion, which in turn led to a higher serum ferritin level at 1 yr after HDCT/autoSCT. The number of CD34+ cells transplanted was an independent factor for ferritin levels at 1 yr after the second HDCT/autoSCT (P = 0.019). Consequently, CD34+ cells should be transplanted as many as possible to prevent the sustained iron overload after tandem HDCT/autoSCT and consequent adverse effects.
PMCID: PMC3314847  PMID: 22468098
High-Dose Chemotherapy; Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation; Iron Overload; Deferasirox; Iron Chelation Treatment; Neuroblastoma
4.  Tandem High-Dose Chemotherapy and Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation in Young Children with Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor of the Central Nervous System 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2012;27(2):135-140.
The feasibility and effectiveness of tandem high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation (HDCT/autoSCT) were evaluated in children younger than 3 yr of age with atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors (ATRT). Tandem HDCT/autoSCT was administered following six cycles of induction chemotherapy. Radiotherapy (RT) was administered if the tumor relapsed or progressed, otherwise, it was administered after 3 yr of age. Tumors relapsed or progressed during induction chemotherapy in 5 of 9 patients enrolled; 3 of these 5 received tandem HDCT/autoSCT as a salvage treatment. One patient died from sepsis during induction chemotherapy. The remaining 3 patients proceeded to tandem HDCT/autoSCT; however, 2 of these patients showed tumor relapse/progression after tandem HDCT/autoSCT. All 7 relapses/progressions occurred at primary sites even in patients with leptomeningeal seeding. Toxicities during tandem HDCT/autoSCT were manageable. A total of 5 patients were alive with a median follow-up of 20 (range 16-70) months from diagnosis. Four of 5 patients who received RT after relapse/progression are alive. The probability of overall survival at 3 yr from diagnosis was 53.3% ± 17.3%. Our tandem HDCT/autoSCT is feasible; however, early administration of RT prior to tandem HDCT/autoSCT should be considered to improve the outcome after tandem HDCT/autoSCT.
PMCID: PMC3271285  PMID: 22323859
Rhabdoid Tumor; Central Nervous System; Drug Therapy; Stem Cell Transplantation; Radiotherapy; Child
5.  Impact of Autologous and Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation in Peripheral T-Cell Lymphomas 
Advances in Hematology  2010;2010:320624.
Peripheral T/NK-cell lymphomas (PTCLs) are rare malignancies characterized by poor prognosis. So far, no standard therapy has been established, due to the lack of randomised studies. High-dose therapy and autologous stem cell transplantation (HDT-autoSCT) have shown good feasibility with low toxicity in retrospective studies. In relapsing and refractory PTCL several comparison analyses suggest similar efficacy for PTCL when compared with aggressive B-cell lymphoma. In the upfront setting, prospective data show promising results with a long-lasting overall survival in a relevant subset of patients. Achieving a complete remission at transplantation seems to be the most important prognostic factor. Allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) has been investigated only as salvage treatment. Especially when using reduced intensity conditioning regimen, eligible patients seem to benefit from this approach. To define the role for upfront stem cell transplantation a randomised trial by the German High-Grade Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Study Group comparing HDT-autoSCT and alloSCT will be initiated this year.
PMCID: PMC3022174  PMID: 21253465
6.  Reduced-dose craniospinal radiotherapy followed by tandem high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation in patients with high-risk medulloblastoma 
Neuro-Oncology  2012;15(3):352-359.
We assessed the feasibility and effectiveness of reduced-dose craniospinal (CS) radiotherapy (RT) followed by tandem high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation (HDCT/autoSCT) in reducing late adverse effects without jeopardizing survival among children with high-risk medulloblastoma (MB).
From October 2005 through September 2010, twenty consecutive children aged >3 years with high-risk MB (presence of metastasis and/or postoperative residual tumor >1.5 cm2) were assigned to receive 2 cycles of pre-RT chemotherapy, CSRT (23.4 or 30.6 Gy) combined with local RT to the primary site (total 54.0 Gy), and 4 cycles of post-RT chemotherapy followed by tandem HDCT/autoSCT. Carboplatin-thiotepa-etoposide and cyclophosphamide-melphalan regimens were used for the first and second HDCT, respectively.
Of 20 patients with high-risk MB, 17 had metastatic disease and 3 had a postoperative residual tumor >1.5 cm2 without metastasis. The tumor relapsed/progressed in 4 patients, and 2 patients died of toxicities during the second HDCT/autoSCT. Therefore, 14 patients remained event-free at a median follow-up of 46 months (range, 23−82) from diagnosis. The probability of 5-year event-free survival was 70.0% ± 10.3% for all patients and 70.6% ± 11.1% for patients with metastases. Late adverse effects evaluated at a median of 36 months (range, 12−68) after tandem HDCT/autoSCT were acceptable.
In children with high-risk MB, CSRT dose might be reduced when accompanied by tandem HDCT/autoSCT without jeopardizing survival. However, longer follow-up is needed to evaluate whether the benefits of reduced-dose CSRT outweigh the long-term risks of tandem HDCT/autoSCT.
PMCID: PMC3578484  PMID: 23258845
autologous stem cell transplantation; high-dose chemotherapy; late effect; medulloblastoma; radiotherapy
7.  Hematologic Recovery after Tandem High-Dose Chemotherapy and Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation in Children with High-Risk Solid Tumors 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2013;28(2):220-226.
Although the number of studies using tandem high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation (HDCT/autoSCT) for the treatment of high-risk pediatric solid tumors has been increasing, documentation of hematologic recovery after tandem HDCT/autoSCT is very limited. For this reason, we retrospectively analyzed the hematologic recovery of 236 children with high-risk solid tumors who underwent tandem HDCT/autoSCT. The median numbers of CD34+ cells transplanted during the first and second HDCT/autoSCT were 4.3 × 106/kg (range 0.6-220.2) and 4.1 × 106/kg (range 0.9-157.6), respectively (P = 0.664). While there was no difference in neutrophil recovery between the first and second HDCT/autoSCT, platelet and RBC recoveries were significantly delayed in the second HDCT/autoSCT (P < 0.001 and P < 0.001, respectively). Delayed recovery in the second HDCT/autoSCT was more prominent when the number of transplanted CD34+ cells was lower, especially if it was < 2 × 106/kg. A lower CD34+ cell count was also associated with increased RBC transfusion requirements and a higher serum ferritin level after tandem HDCT/autoSCT. More CD34+ cells need to be transplanted during the second HDCT/autoSCT in order to achieve the same hematologic recovery as the first HDCT/autoSCT.
PMCID: PMC3565133  PMID: 23400387
High-Dose Chemotherapy; Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation; CD34+ Cells; Hematologic Recovery; Iron Overload
8.  Post-transplantation cyclophosphamide for tolerance induction in HLA-haploidentical BMT 
Seminars in oncology  2012;39(6):10.1053/j.seminoncol.2012.09.005.
Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) is a potentially curative therapy for many hematologic and immunologic diseases. Further, partial or full donor hematopoietic chimerism following alloSCT may be sufficient to guarantee immunologic tolerance to solid organs from the same donor, obviating any requirement for prolonged pharmacologic immunosuppression. Despite alloSCT’s potential, the procedure is beset by two major limitations. The first relates to the procedure’s toxicity including conditioning regimen toxicity, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), and infection. The second limitation is the lack of histocompatible donors. A human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-matched sibling or unrelated donor cannot be identified expeditiously for up to 40% of patients. Historically, alloSCT from partially HLA-mismatched or HLA-haploidentical relatives has been complicated by unacceptably high incidences of graft rejection, severe GVHD, and non-relapse mortality. Recently, our groups have developed a method to selectively deplete alloreactive cells in vivo by administering high doses of cyclophosphamide in a narrow window after transplantation. Using high-dose, post-transplantation cyclophosphamide (PT/Cy), crossing the HLA barrier in alloSCT is now feasible and donors can be found for nearly all patients. This review discusses the history of HLA-haploidentical SCT, recent clinical results and immunologic mechanisms of action of high-dose PT/Cy for prevention of graft rejection and GVHD.
PMCID: PMC3808078  PMID: 23206845
9.  Efficacy of repeat myeloablative chemotherapy with autologous stem-cell support in multiple myeloma 
Induction high-dose chemotherapy followed by myeloablative melphalan (HD-Mel) treatment and autologous hematopoietic stem-cell support (autoSCT) is a standard treatment for multiple myeloma (MM) either upfront or in relapse after conventional treatment. We performed a retrospective analysis of consecutive patients undergoing a late repeat HD-Mel/autoSCT treatment for MM.
Data from 24 consecutive patients with MM who underwent a myeloablative treatment with HD-Mel late after completion of upfront first high-dose therapy were assessed for toxicity, response, progression-free survival (PFS) and time to next treatment (TTNT). These data were correlated with the results obtained after the initial high dose therapy and autoSCT.
A total of 23 patients were treated with novel drugs (lenalidomide, thalidomide, bortezomib) after relapse to initial autoSCT. The median overall survival (OS) of all patients was 90 months. 19 patients (79%) achieved a very good partial remission (VGPR) or complete remission (CR) after initial autoSCT, compared with 42% after late autoSCT. PFS and TTNT were 19 and 24 months after initial compared with 13 and 21 months after late autoSCT. Univariate analysis identified initial response duration and the achievement of a CR/VGPR after the initial transplantation to be associated with prolonged response after repeat autoSCT.
Our data indicate that late high-dose treatment followed by autoSCT is safe and effective after upfront intensive treatment, can bridge to allogeneic SCT, and encourage collection of an additional graft.
PMCID: PMC3573432  PMID: 23556114
high-dose therapy; multiple myeloma; stem-cell transplantation
10.  Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia - Still a Valid Treatment Option, or is the Game Over? 
Chemoimmunotherapy with fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab (FCR) has been established as the current standard of care for young and fit patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). In the early nineties of the last century, long before the advent of fludarabine or antibody-based strategies, there was realistic hope that myeloablative therapy followed by autologous stem cell transplantation (autoSCT) might be an effective and potentially curative front-line treatment option for suitable patients with CLL. Since then, several prospective trials have disenthralled this hope: although autoSCT can prolong event and progression-free survival if used as part of early front-line treatment, it does not improve overall survival, while it is associated with an increased risk of late adverse events such as secondary malignancies. In addition, autoSCT lacks the potential to overcome the negative impact of biomarkers that confer resistance to chemotherapy or early relapse. The role of autoSCT has also been explored in the context of FCR, and it was demonstrated that its effect is inferior to the currently established optimal treatment regimen. In view of ongoing attempts to improve on FCR, promising clinical activity of new substances even in relapsed/ refractory CLL patients, exciting novel cell therapy approaches and advantages in the understanding of the disease and detection of Minimal Residual Disease (MRD), autoSCT has lost its place as a standard treatment option for CLL.
PMCID: PMC3507531  PMID: 23205259
11.  Reduced-intensity conditioning allogeneic stem cell transplantation in malignant lymphoma: current status 
Cancer Biology & Medicine  2013;10(1):1-9.
Allogeneic stem cell transplantation (allo-SCT) is a potential cure for patients with malignant lymphoma that is based on the graft-versus-lymphoma (GVL) effect. Myeloablative conditioning allo-SCT is associated with high mortality and morbidity, particularly in patients older than 45 years, heavily pretreated patients (prior hematopoietic stem cell transplantation or more than two lines of conventional chemotherapy) or patients affected by other comorbidities. Therefore, conventional allo-SCT is restricted to younger patients (<50 to 55 years) in good physical condition. Over the last decade, allo-SCT with reduced-intensity conditioning (RIC-allo-SCT) has been increasingly used to treat patients with lymphoma. This treatment is associated with lower toxicity and substantial decrease in the incidence of transplant-related mortality, and has the potential to lead to long-term remissions. Therefore, patients who are not suitable to undergo conventional allo-SCT can benefit from the potentially curative GVL effects of allo-SCT. Although RIC-allo-SCT has improved the survival of lymphoma patients, high post-transplant relapse rates or disease progression mainly results in treatment failure. Thus, further improvement is clearly needed. The role and timing of RIC-allo-SCT in the treatment of lymphoma remains unclear. Therefore, more prospective studies should clarify the effectiveness of this method. In this article, we review the recent literature on RIC-allo-SCT as a treatment for major lymphoma subtypes. Areas that require further investigation in the context of clinical trials are also highlighted.
PMCID: PMC3643681  PMID: 23691438
Reduced intensity conditioning (RIC); allogeneic stem cell transplantation (RIC-allo-SCT); Hodgkin’s lymphoma; indolent lymphoma; aggressive lymphoma
12.  Efficacy and Pharmacologic Data of Second-Generation Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor Nilotinib in BCR-ABL-Positive Leukemia Patients with Central Nervous System Relapse after Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:637059.
Central nervous system (CNS) involvement is a severe complication of BCR-ABL-positive leukemia after allogenic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) associated with fatal outcome. Although second-generation tyrosine-kinase inhibitors (TKI) such as nilotinib have shown activity in systemic BCR-ABL+ disease, little data exists on their penetration and efficacy within the CNS. Four patients (3 male, 1 female; age 15–49) with meningeal relapse after alloSCT and subsequent treatment with nilotinib were identified. A total of 17 cerebrospinal fluid (csf) and serum samples were assessed for nilotinib concentration and patient outcome was recorded. Nilotinib concentrations showed a low median csf/plasma ratio of 0.53% (range 0.23–1.5%), yet pronounced clinical efficacy was observed with long-lasting responses (>1 year) in three patients. Comparison with historical data showed a trend towards superior efficacy of nilotinib versus imatinib. Despite poor csf penetration, nilotinib showed significant clinical activity in CNS relapse of BCR-ABL+ leukemias. As nilotinib has a high protein-binding affinity, the low-protein concentration in csf could translate into a relatively higher amount of free and therefore active nilotinib in csf as compared to blood, possibly explaining the observed efficacy. Thus, treatment with a 2nd generation TKI warrants further investigation and should be considered in cases of CNS relapse of BCR-ABL-positive leukemia after alloSCT.
PMCID: PMC4082894  PMID: 25025064
13.  Should elderly patients with higher-risk myelodysplastic syndromes undergo allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation? 
Expert review of hematology  2013;6(5):539-542.
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) include a group of hematopoietic malignancies characterized by dysplastic changes, ineffective hematopoiesis and variable risk of leukemic progression. At diagnosis, 86% of MDS patients are ≥60 years. Azacitidine, the only drug that prolongs life in high-risk (HR)-MDS patients, adds a median of only 9.5 months to life. Allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) remains the only potentially curative approach. Despite recent improvements including use of reduced intensity conditioning (RIC) that decrease transplant-related mortality, alloSCT continues to be used rarely in elderly MDS. There is paucity of data regarding outcomes of RIC alloSCT in elderly MDS patients, especially in direct comparison with azanucleosides. In this paper, the authors discuss the recent Markov decision analysis by Koreth et al. in which investigators demonstrated superior survival of patients with HR-MDS aged 60–70 years who underwent RIC alloSCT in comparison with those who were treated with azanucleosides.
PMCID: PMC4124615  PMID: 24093972
allogeneic stem cell transplantation; decision analysis; myelodysplastic syndromes; reduced intensity conditioning
14.  Durable Remission of Renal Cell Carcinoma in Conjuncture with Graft versus Host Disease following Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation and Donor Lymphocyte Infusion: Rule or Exception? 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85198.
Allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) followed by donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI) can be applied as immunotherapeutic intervention to treat malignant diseases. Here, we describe a patient with progressive metastatic clear cell renal cell carcinoma (RCC) who was treated with T cell depleted non-myeloablative alloSCT and DLI resulting in disease regression accompanied by extensive graft versus host disease (GVHD). We characterized the specificity of this immune response, and detected a dominant T cell population recognizing a novel minor histocompatibility antigen (MiHA) designated LB-FUCA2-1V. T cells specific for LB-FUCA2-1V were shown to recognize RCC cell lines, supporting a dominant role in the graft versus tumor (GVT) reaction. However, coinciding with the gradual disappearance of chronic GVHD, the anti-tumor effect declined and 3 years after alloSCT the metastases became progressive again. To re-initiate the GVT reaction, escalating doses of DLI were given, but no immune response could be induced and the patient died of progressive disease 8.5 years after alloSCT. Gene expression studies illustrated that only a minimal number of genes shared expression between RCC and professional antigen presenting cells but were not expressed by non-malignant healthy tissues, indicating that in patients suffering from RCC, GVT reactivity after alloSCT may be unavoidably linked to GVHD.
PMCID: PMC3893183  PMID: 24454818
15.  Reduced-toxicity conditioning therapy with allogeneic stem cell transplantation for acute leukemia 
Current opinion in oncology  2009;21(0 1):S11-S15.
We hypothesized that standardized systemic drug delivery would improve treatment safety and provide better leukemia control. We therefore developed an intravenous busulfan formulation and combined it with fludarabine instead of cyclophosphamide in preparation for allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT). We used a Bayesian method to compare the outcomes of 67 acute myeloid leukemia (AML)/myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) patients who received intravenous busulfan–cyclophosphamide (BuCy2) with 148 subsequent AML/MDS patients who received busulfan–fludarabine (Bu-Flu). The groups had comparable pretreatment characteristics, except that the Bu-Flu patients were older, more often had unrelated donors and had a shorter follow-up. A greatly improved outcome in the Bu-Flu group is unlikely to be explained by improved supportive care during this time period. Overall, the data support replacing BuCy2 with or without antithymocyte globulin (ATG) with Bu-Flu with or without rabbit-ATG for AML or MDS. We further suggest that the high level of safety and fast recovery from conditioning therapy-related side effects after the Bu-Flu regimen makes it a suitable platform technology for testing additional adjuncts for improved posttransplant immune recovery and long-term disease control in patients who are at high risk of rapidly recurrent disease after alloSCT. The extremely low one-year treatment-related mortality as well as high overall and event-free survival of patients in the Bu-Flu group indicate that it is time to revisit the value of alloSCT compared with conventional maintenance chemotherapy for patients in first complete remission of AML/MDS.
PMCID: PMC4037323  PMID: 19561406
acute myeloid leukemia; allogeneic stem cell transplantation; cyclophosphamide; fludarabine; intravenous busulfan; myelodysplastic syndrome; reduced-toxicity conditioning therapy
16.  Phase II Study of Bendamustine in Relapsed and Refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;31(4):456-460.
Limited data exist regarding the activity of bendamustine in Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). This phase II study evaluated the efficacy of bendamustine in relapsed and refractory HL.
Patients and Methods
Patients with relapsed and refractory HL who were ineligible for autologous stem-cell transplantation (ASCT), or for whom this treatment failed, received bendamustine 120 mg/m2 as a 30-minute infusion on days 1 and 2 every 28 days with growth factor support. The primary end point was overall response rate (ORR). A secondary end point was referral rate to allogeneic stem-cell transplantation (alloSCT) for patients deemed eligible for alloSCT at the time of enrollment.
Of the 36 patients enrolled, 34 were evaluable for response. Patients had received a median of four prior treatments, and 75% had relapsed after ASCT. The ORR by intent-to-treat analysis was 53%, including 12 complete responses (33%) and seven partial responses (19%). The response rate among evaluable patients was 56%. Responses were seen in patients with prior refractory disease, prior ASCT, and prior alloSCT; however, no responses were seen in patients who relapsed within 3 months of ASCT. The median response duration was 5 months. Five patients (20% of those eligible) proceeded to alloSCT after treatment with bendamustine. Grade ≥ 3 adverse events were infrequent and most commonly included thrombocytopenia (20%), anemia (14%), and infection (14%).
This study confirms the efficacy of bendamustine in heavily pretreated patients with HL. These results support current and future studies evaluating bendamustine combinations in relapsed and refractory HL.
PMCID: PMC3862960  PMID: 23248254
17.  Hypomethylating Agents and Other Novel Strategies in Myelodysplastic Syndromes 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2011;29(5):516-523.
Over the last decade, treatment approaches for patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) have improved significantly. Treatment of MDS is tailored to the specific risk characteristics of the patient. In general, patients are divided into lower- and higher-risk categories. Without therapy, prognosis of patients with higher-risk MDS is poor, and treatments should be directed to improve survival. Prognosis of patients with lower-risk MDS is more heterogeneous, and therapies are usually directed to minimize transfusion needs and potentially to alter the natural course of the disease. Treatment options for patients with higher-risk MDS include hypomethylating agents (azacitidine and decitabine), intensive chemotherapy (ICT), and allogeneic stem-cell transplantation (alloSCT). The use of the hypomethylating agents has transformed the approach to this patient population, in particular older individuals, for whom ICT and alloSCT are not an option. In lower-risk MDS, treatment strategies are used sequentially and usually include observation in patients with low risk and no transfusion dependency, growth factors, and lenalidomide for patients with alteration of chromosome 5 and anemia. The use of hypomethylating agents is less understood in this group of patients. AlloSCT is usually reserved for patients with lower-risk MDS closer to the time of transformation. In this short review, we discuss treatment alternatives for patients with MDS and delineate some of the ongoing challenges, including the development of better front-line strategies for patients with higher-risk disease, the concept of altering the natural course of the disease in lower-risk MDS, and the development of new treatment approaches for patients who do not benefit from hypomethylating agents.
PMCID: PMC3056493  PMID: 21220589
18.  Autologous stem-cell transplantation in refractory autoimmune diseases after in vivo immunoablation and ex vivo depletion of mononuclear cells 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(4):327-336.
Autoimmune diseases that are resistant to conventional treatment cause severe morbidity and even mortality. In the present study we demonstrate that complete remissions can be achieved in refractory polychondritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), even at advanced stage, with the use of autologous stem-cell transplantation (SCT). Remissions persisted after reconstitution of the immune system. In the treatment of advanced systemic sclerosis (SSc), stable disease may be achieved with autologous SCT.
Patients with persistently active autoimmune diseases are considered to be candidates for autologous SCT. We performed a phase 1/2 study in a limited number of patients who were refractory to conventional immunosuppressive treatment. Following a period of uncontrolled disease activity for at least 6 months, autologous SCT was performed, after in vivo immunoablation and ex vivo depletion of mononuclear cells.
To investigate feasibility, toxicity and efficacy of the treatment, and the incidence of emergent infections.
Seven patients (aged between 23 and 48 years) were included in the single-centre trial: one had relapsing polychondritis, three had treatment-refractory SLE and three patients had SSc. Stem-cell mobilization was achieved by treatment with moderate-dose cyclophosphamide (2 g/m2; in terms of myelotoxic side effects or myelosuppression) and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). CD34- cells of the leukapheresis products were removed by high-gradient magnetic cell sorting. After stem-cell collection, immunoablation was performed with high-dose cyclophosphamide (200 mg/kg body weight) and antithymocyte globulin (ATG; 90 mg/kg body weight). Autologous SCT was followed by reconstitution of the immune system, which was monitored by six-parameter flow cytometry and standard serology. The trial fulfilled the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) guidelines for blood and bone marrow stem-cell transplants in autoimmune disease.
Among the seven patients studied, the patient with relapsing polychondritis and the patients with SLE were successfully treated and remained in complete remission during a follow up of 10-21 months. Remission persisted despite reconstitution of the immune system, resulting in high numbers of effector-/memory-type T-helper lymphocytes and increasing populations in the naïve T-cell compartment. Before autologous SCT, one of the patients with SLE had a long-lasting secondary antiphospholipid syndrome, with high anticardiolipin antibodies and thromboembolic events. After autologous SCT the antiphospholipid antibodies became negative, and no thrombosis occurred during follow up. Two of the patients with SSc were unaffected by treatment with autologous SCT for 6 or 13 months. The other patient with SSc died 2 days after autologous SCT because of cardiac failure.
During stem-cell mobilization with G-CSF, flares of autoimmune disease were seen in the patient with polychondritis and in one patient with SLE. The strategy utilized for depletion of CD34- cells led to a reduction by 4.5-5 log of contaminating CD3+ cells in the transplant. T-cell add-back was required in the patient with polychondritis and in one patient with SLE to provide a dose of 1×104 CD3+ cells/kg body weight for the transplant.
In vivo immunoablation in combination with autologous SCT after ex vivo depletion of CD34- cells can block the autoimmune process in relapsing polychondritis or SLE without incidence of severe infections. The remissions were achieved in patients with advanced disease that was refractory to previous intensive immunosuppressive therapy. The present results do not indicate that large-scale contamination of the stem-cell transplant with autoreactive cells after selection for CD34+cells occurred. After the preparative regimen, the application of G-CSF was avoided, because induction of flares of the autoimmune disease were noticed during the mobilization of stem cells. In SSc patients, distinct remissions were not observable after autologous SCT; the serological and clinical status did not improve. Follow-up periods of more than 12 months may be required to identify successful treatment with autologous SCT in SSc patients. Among the various autoimmune diseases the efficacy of autologous SCT appears to be dependent on the underlying pathophysiology. The results of the present phase 1/2 study suggest that patients with advanced stage SSc should not be treated with autologous SCT, until the reasons for the lack of response and the possible mortality due to cardiac complications are identified. The observation of flares of autoimmune disease after application of G-CSF emphasizes the need for critical evaluation of the role of G-CSF in immunoablative regimens.
PMCID: PMC17815  PMID: 11056673
autologous stem-cell transplantation; polychondritis; refractory autoimmune disease; systemic lupus erythematosus; systemic sclerosis
19.  Prognostic significance of nucleophosmin mutations and FLT3 internal tandem duplication in adult patients with cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia 
Nucleophosmin (NPM1) gene and fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 gene-internal tandem duplication (FLT3-ITD) mutations are the most frequent mutations in patients with cytogenetically normal (CN)-AML. We analyzed the prognostic impact of these mutations and their interactions in adults with CN-AML.
NPM1 mutation (NPM1mut) and FLT3-ITD mutation (FLT3-ITD+) were analyzed by GeneScan and PCR assays of bone marrow samples obtained from 121 adult patients with CN-AML (age≤60 years at diagnosis).
The incidence of FLT3-ITD+ was higher in the NPM1mut group than in the wild-type NPM1 gene (NPM1wt) group. The patients were divided according to their mutation status into the NPM1mut/FLT3-ITD (isolated NPM1mut), NPM1mut/FLT3-ITD+ or NPM1wt/FLT3-ITD-, and NPM1wt/FLT3-ITD+ (isolated FLT3-ITD+) groups. The isolated NPM1mut group showed significantly better clinical outcomes in terms of relapse rate, 5-year relapse-free survival (RFS), and overall survival (OS) than the other groups. In contrast, the isolated FLT3-ITD+ group had a higher relapse rate and shorter RFS and OS than the other groups. The 5-year RFS rate was much higher among the patients who underwent allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) than among those treated with high-dose cytarabine chemotherapy (HDAC) only as consolidation therapy in the isolated NPM1mut group and the NPM1mut/FLT3-ITD+ or NPM1wt/FLT3-ITD- group.
Adult patients with CN-AML carrying isolated NPM1mut and isolated FLT3-ITD+ exhibit different clinical outcomes than those with NPM1mut/FLT3-ITD+ or NPM1wt/FLT3-ITD-. Although isolated NPM1mut leads to favorable clinical outcomes of CN-AML, the role of alloSCT in such patients remains to be considered.
PMCID: PMC2983002  PMID: 21120161
NPM1; FLT3-ITD; Acute myeloid leukemia; Normal karyotype
20.  Treatment of splenic marginal zone lymphoma of the CNS with high-dose therapy and allogeneic stem cell transplantation 
Therapy of indolent lymphomas with involvement of the central nervous system (CNS) has not been standardized so far. A 42-year old male patient presented with neurological signs because of leukemic splenic marginal zone lymphoma (SMZL) manifested in bone marrow, lymph nodes and CNS. Due to the aggressiveness of the disease and the young age of the patient, an intensive immunochemotherapy followed by high-dose therapy with busulfan, thiotepa and fludarabine and subsequent unrelated allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) was performed. The haemopoietic stem cells engrafted in time and the patient is doing well (ECOG 0) without evidence for active lymphoma three years after transplantation. Highly sensitive tests by specific quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction for presence of lymphoma cells in blood and bone marrow indicated also a molecular remission. The reported case shows the feasibility of high-dose therapy and allogeneic stem cell transplantation in high-risk patients with CNS-involvement of indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In addition, the case supports the hypothesis that the graft-versus lymphoma effect after alloSCT is also active within the CNS.
PMCID: PMC3515347  PMID: 23210733
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; Allogeneic stem cell transplantation; Graft-versus-lymphoma effect; Marginal zone lymphoma
21.  Beyond hypomethylating agents failure in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes 
Current opinion in hematology  2014;21(2):123-130.
Purpose of review
Although hypomethylating agents (HMAs) significantly improve outcomes in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), only half the patients achieve objective responses, and most responders lose response within 1–2 years. Azacitidine prolongs survival by a median of only 9.5 months. Failure of HMA therapy is associated with a very dismal prognosis. Therefore, novel therapeutic approaches are clearly needed.
Recent findings
The sequential use of the alternative HMA after failure of first line HMA is associated with modest efficacy. The improved understanding of the biologic underpinnings of the disease have opened the door to study investigational agents that target disrupted molecular pathways critical to the pathogenesis of MDS. Combination treatment strategies using an azacitidine backbone are demonstrating promising early results. Expanding the applicability of allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT), the only curative modality, by reducing toxicity and relapse rates is another area of active research.
Sequential switching to the alternative HMA, clinical trials of novel targeted therapies, azacitidine-based combination therapeutic strategies, and improvements in the alloSCT platform are the main directions in improving outcomes of MDS post HMA failure.
PMCID: PMC4124617  PMID: 24335709
allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; azacitidine; decitabine; hypomethylating agents; myelodysplastic syndromes
22.  The aberrant asynchronous replication — characterizing lymphocytes of cancer patients — is erased following stem cell transplantation 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:230.
Aberrations of allelic replication timing are epigenetic markers observed in peripheral blood cells of cancer patients. The aberrant markers are non-cancer-type-specific and are accompanied by increased levels of sporadic aneuploidy. The study aimed at following the epigenetic markers and aneuploidy levels in cells of patients with haematological malignancies from diagnosis to full remission, as achieved by allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT).
TP53 (a tumor suppressor gene assigned to chromosome 17), AML1 (a gene assigned to chromosome 21 and involved in the leukaemia-abundant 8;21 translocation) and the pericentomeric satellite sequence of chromosome 17 (CEN17) were used for replication timing assessments. Aneuploidy was monitored by enumerating the copy numbers of chromosomes 17 and 21. Replication timing and aneuploidy were detected cytogenetically using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) technology applied to phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-stimulated lymphocytes.
We show that aberrant epigenetic markers are detected in patients with hematological malignancies from the time of diagnosis through to when they are scheduled to undergo alloSCT. These aberrations are unaffected by the clinical status of the disease and are displayed both during accelerated stages as well as in remission. Yet, these markers are eradicated completely following stem cell transplantation. In contrast, the increased levels of aneuploidy (irreversible genetic alterations) displayed in blood lymphocytes at various stages of disease are not eliminated following transplantation. However, they do not elevate and remain unchanged (stable state). A demethylating anti-cancer drug, 5-azacytidine, applied in vitro to lymphocytes of patients prior to transplantation mimics the effect of transplantation: the epigenetic aberrations disappear while aneuploidy stays unchanged.
The reversible nature of the replication aberrations may serve as potential epigenetic blood markers for evaluating the success of transplant or other treatments and for long-term follow up of the patients who have overcome a hematological malignancy.
PMCID: PMC2887401  PMID: 20497575
23.  Phase I Trial of Adoptive Cell Transfer with Mixed-Profile Type-I/Type-II Allogeneic T Cells for Metastatic Breast Cancer 
Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) response to allogeneic lymphocytes requires donor T-cell engraftment and is limited by graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). In mice, Type-II-polarized T cells promote engraftment and modulate GVHD whereas Type-I-polarized T cells mediate more potent graft-versus-tumor (GVT) effects. This Phase-I translational study evaluated adoptive transfer of ex-vivo-costimulated Type-I/Type-II (T1/T2) donor T cells with T-cell-depleted (TCD) allogeneic stem-cell transplantation (AlloSCT) for MBC.
Patients had received anthracycline, taxane and antibody therapies, been treated for metastatic disease and an HLA-identical-sibling donor. Donor lymphocytes were costimulated ex vivo with anti-CD3/anti-CD28 antibody-coated magnetic beads in IL-2/IL-4-supplemented media. Patients received reduced-intensity conditioning, donor stem cells and T1/T2 cells, and monitoring for toxicity, engraftment, GVHD and tumor response; results were compared with historical controls, identically treated except for T1/T2-product infusions.
Mixed Type-I/Type-II CD4+-T cells predominated in T1/T2 products. Nine patients received T1/T2 cells at Dose-Level 1 (5×106 cells/kg). T-cell donor chimerism reached 100% by a median of 28 days. Seven (78%) developed acute GVHD. At Day +28, five patients had partial responses (56%) and none had MBC progression; thereafter, two patients had continued responses. Donor-T-cell engraftment and tumor responses appeared faster than in historical controls, but GVHD rates were similar and responders progressed early, often following treatment of acute GVHD.
Allogeneic T1/T2 cells were safely infused with TCD-AlloSCT, appeared to promote donor engraftment, and may have contributed to transient early tumor responses.
PMCID: PMC3206984  PMID: 21948234
24.  Patients with Multiple Myeloma Develop SOX2-Specific Autoantibodies after Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation 
The occurrence of SOX2-specific autoantibodies seems to be associated with an improved prognosis in patients with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). However, it is unclear if SOX2-specific antibodies also develop in established multiple myeloma (MM). Screening 1094 peripheral blood (PB) sera from 196 MM patients and 100 PB sera from healthy donors, we detected SOX2-specific autoantibodies in 7.7% and 2.0% of patients and donors, respectively. We identified SOX2211–230 as an immunodominant antibody-epitope within the full protein sequence. SOX2 antigen was expressed in most healthy tissues and its expression did not correlate with the number of BM-resident plasma cells. Accordingly, anti-SOX2 immunity was not related to SOX2 expression levels or tumor burden in the patients' BM. The only clinical factor predicting the development of anti-SOX2 immunity was application of allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT). Anti-SOX2 antibodies occurred more frequently in patients who had received alloSCT (n = 74). Moreover, most SOX2-seropositive patients had only developed antibodies after alloSCT. This finding indicates that alloSCT is able to break tolerance towards this commonly expressed antigen. The questions whether SOX2-specific autoantibodies merely represent an epiphenomenon, are related to graft-versus-host effects or participate in the immune control of myeloma needs to be answered in prospective studies.
PMCID: PMC3227434  PMID: 22190969
25.  Stem cell transplantation in chronic lymphocytic leukemia 
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) remains incurable with standard therapy. Most patients with CLL have an indolent clinical course, but it is possible to identify patients with high risk disease. Younger patients with adverse risk factors will die from their disease and are therefore candidates for clinical trials exploring hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (SCT). Autologous SCT is feasible and has low treatment related mortality, but is not curative. Myeloablative allogeneic SCT is associated with high treatment related morbidity and mortality, few late relapses, but is applicable to only a small number of CLL patients. The major focus of SCT in CLL has been with reduced intensity conditioning (RIC) allogeneic SCT, which is applicable to the more elderly patient population with this disease and which attempts to exploit the graft versus leukaemia effect which exists in CLL. Steps to further decrease the morbidity and mortality of the RIC SCT and in particular to reduce the incidence of chronic extensive graft versus host disease remain the major focus. Many potential treatments are available for CLL, and appropriate patient selection and the timing of SCT remain controversial and the focus of ongoing clinical trials. The use of SCT must always be weighed against the risk of the underlying disease, particularly in a setting where improvements in treatment are leading to improved outcome.
PMCID: PMC2668540  PMID: 19147079

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