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1.  Expression of SOCS1 and SOCS3 genes in human graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation 
Blood research  2013;48(1):16-23.
Suppressor of cytokine signaling genes (SOCS) are regarded as pivotal negative feedback regulators of cytokine signals, including the interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), granulocyte-colony stimulating factor, and interleukin families, released by T cells. A detailed understanding of the involvement of SOCS genes in graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is critical to effectively manage GVHD, yet their expression patterns among recipients remain largely unexplored.
Expression levels of SOCS1 and SOCS3 were determined by real-time quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) in patients with acute GVHD (aGVHD) and chronic GVHD (cGVHD), in a severity-dependent manner, after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). A total of 71 recipients with AML (N=40), ALL (N=12), myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS; N=10), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML; N=2), severe aplastic anemia (SAA; N=5), or others (N=2), who received allogeneic HSCT from human leukocyte antigen-identical siblings or unrelated donors between 2009 and 2011, were included in the present study.
Overall, the expression levels of SOCS1 decreased in recipients with grade II to IV aGVHD and cGVHD when compared to normal donors and non-GVHD recipients. Interestingly, the expressions of SOCS1 decreased significantly more in cGVHD than in aGVHD recipients (P=0.0091). In contrast, SOCS3 expressions were similarly reduced in all the recipients.
This is the first study to show that SOCS1 and SOCS3 are differentially expressed in recipients following allogeneic HSCT, suggesting a prognostic correlation between SOCS genes and the development of GVHD. This result provides a new platform to study GVHD immunobiology and potential diagnostic and therapeutic targets for GVHD.
PMCID: PMC3625005  PMID: 23589790
Suppressor of cytokine signaling proteins; Graft vs. host disease; Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction; Allogeneic transplantation
2.  MHC Haplotype Matching for Unrelated Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e8.
Current criteria for the selection of unrelated donors for hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) include matching for the alleles of each human leukocyte antigen (HLA) locus within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), however, remains a significant and potentially life-threatening complication even after HLA-identical unrelated HCT. The MHC harbors more than 400 genes, but the total number of transplantation antigens is unknown. Genes that influence transplantation outcome could be identified by using linkage disequilibrium (LD)-mapping approaches, if the extended MHC haplotypes of the unrelated donor and recipient could be defined.
Methods and Findings
We isolated DNA strands extending across 2 million base pairs of the MHC to determine the physical linkage of HLA-A, -B, and -DRB1 alleles in 246 HCT recipients and their HLA-A, -B, -C, -DRB1, -DQB1 allele-matched unrelated donors. MHC haplotype mismatching was associated with a statistically significantly increased risk of severe acute GVHD (odds ratio 4.51; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.34–8.70, p < 0.0001) and with lower risk of disease recurrence (hazard ratio 0.45; 95% CI, 0.22–0.92, p = 0.03).
The MHC harbors genes that encode unidentified transplantation antigens. The three-locus HLA-A, -B, -DRB1 haplotype serves as a proxy for GVHD risk among HLA-identical transplant recipients. The phasing method provides an approach for mapping novel MHC-linked transplantation determinants and a means to decrease GVHD-related morbidity after HCT from unrelated donors.
A novel method of MHC haplotype matching provides a means to decrease graft-versus-host disease-related morbidity after transplantation from unrelated donors.
Editors' Summary
Graft rejection and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) are feared complications of hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). GVHD can affect all parts of the body, and, if severe (grade III to IV out of a scale of IV), can lead to the death of the transplant recipient. GVHD or rejection of the graft occurs when there are differences in specific proteins involved in the immune response (known as HLA antigens) between donor and recipient that stimulate the immune reaction. GVHD and graft rejection occur most often in people who receive transplants from unrelated donors because, although when donors are matched to recipients matching is done for the most important HLA antigens known to be involved, it has not technically been possible to match for all possible antigens. However, the human genome is organized into segments or blocks of closely linked genetic variants that are inherited as “haplotypes” on the same DNA strand of a chromosome. Most of the genes that code for HLA antigens are physically located together in one part of the human genome, known as the MHC region. Currently three HLA markers from this region (HLA-A, -B, -DRB1) are matched when matching donors and recipients. If it were possible to better map the structure of this region, it would be possible to better match recipients and donors (especially unrelated donors) for the unidentified transplantation antigens and reduce the chance of recipients getting GVHD or rejecting their grafts.
Why Was This Study Done?
Current strategies to define MHC haplotype blocks look at, on average, a length of only 18,000 base pairs and hence cannot define extended MHC haplotypes. Previously, this group of researchers developed a method of defining the HLA-A, B, DR haplotypes in recipients and their HLA-matched unrelated transplant donors using high-quality DNA containing 2 million base pairs across the MHC region. They wanted see if using this technique might provide a way to better assess the risk recipients have of developing GVHD or of having recurrent disease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They studied 246 HCT recipients and their donors who had been matched for HLA-A, -B, -C, -DRB1, -DQB1 by current techniques. The recipients were having HCT for a variety of hematological cancers: acute lymphoid leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, or myelodysplastic syndrome. They found that, using the new technique, 22% of the donor–recipient pairs were haplotype-mismatched. Taking various other factors into account, including age, and patient and donor gender, MHC haplotype mismatching was associated with an approximately four times greater risk of severe acute GVHD but with a lower risk of disease recurrence. The lower risk of recurrence is believed to be because transplanted cells do not only replace abnormal cancerous cells but also react against them and therefore decrease the chance of the cancer recurring; mismatched cells are known to be more stimulated to react against the cancerous cells.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results here suggest that this new haplotype matching method can provide a way to assess the risk of GVHD after HCT from unrelated donors, and in future could be considered as a technique to match donors and recipients.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• Medline Plus has a page of information on stem cell transplantation, including HCT
• The Anthony Nolan Trust holds one of the largest databases of unrelated donors in the world
• The National Cancer Institute has a page of questions and answers on HCT
• The Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research describes outcomes research in transplantation
• The National Marrow Donor Program describes how HLA-typed unrelated donors are identified
• The World Marrow Donor Association is involved in facilitating stem cell donation across international boundaries
PMCID: PMC1796628  PMID: 17378697
3.  Extracorporeal Photophoresis 
Executive Summary
To assess the effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness of extracorporeal photophoresis (ECP) for the treatment of refractory erythrodermic cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) and refractory chronic graft versus host disease (cGvHD).
Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma
Cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a general name for a group of skin affecting disorders caused by malignant white blood cells (T lymphocytes). Cutaneous T cell lymphoma is relatively uncommon and represents slightly more than 2% of all lymphomas in the United States. The most frequently diagnosed form of CTCL is mycosis fungoides (MF) and its leukemic variant Sezary syndrome (SS). The relative frequency and disease-specific 5-year survival of 1,905 primary cutaneous lymphomas classified according to the World Health Organization-European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (WHO-EORTC) classification (Appendix 1). Mycosis fungoides had a frequency of 44% and a disease specific 5-year survival of 88%. Sezary syndrome had a frequency of 3% and a disease specific 5-year survival of 24%.
Cutaneous T cell lymphoma has an annual incidence of approximately 0.4 per 100,000 and it mainly occurs in the 5th to 6th decade of life, with a male/female ratio of 2:1. Mycosis fungoides is an indolent lymphoma with patients often having several years of eczematous or dermatitic skin lesions before the diagnosis is finally established. Mycosis fungoides commonly presents as chronic eczematous patches or plaques and can remain stable for many years. Early in the disease biopsies are often difficult to interpret and the diagnosis may only become apparent by observing the patient over time.
The clinical course of MF is unpredictable. Most patients will live normal lives and experience skin symptoms without serious complications. Approximately 10% of MF patients will experience progressive disease involving lymph nodes, peripheral blood, bone marrow and visceral organs. A particular syndrome in these patients involves erythroderma (intense and usually widespread reddening of the skin from dilation of blood vessels, often preceding or associated with exfoliation), and circulating tumour cells. This is known as SS. It has been estimated that approximately 5-10% of CTCL patients have SS. Patients with SS have a median survival of approximately 30 months.
Chronic Graft Versus Host Disease
Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) is a treatment used for a variety of malignant and nonmalignant disease of the bone marrow and immune system. The procedure is often associated with serious immunological complications, particularly graft versus host disease (GvHD). A chronic form of GvHD (cGvHD) afflicts many allogeneic HCT recipients, which results in dysfunction of numerous organ systems or even a profound state of immunodeficiency. Chronic GVHD is the most frequent cause of poor long-term outcome and quality of life after allogeneic HCT. The syndrome typically develops several months after transplantation, when the patient may no longer be under the direct care of the transplant team.
Approximately 50% of patients with cGvHD have limited disease and a good prognosis. Of the patients with extensive disease, approximately 60% will respond to treatment and eventually be able to discontinue immunosuppressive therapy. The remaining patients will develop opportunistic infection, or require prolonged treatment with immunosuppressive agents.
Chronic GvHD occurs in at least 30% to 50% of recipients of transplants from human leukocyte antigen matched siblings and at least 60% to 70% of recipients of transplants from unrelated donors. Risk factors include older age of patient or donor, higher degree of histoincompatibility, unrelated versus related donor, use of hematopoietic cells obtained from the blood rather than the marrow, and previous acute GvHD. Bhushan and Collins estimated that the incidence of severe cGvHD has probably increased in recent years because of the use of more unrelated transplants, donor leukocyte infusions, nonmyeloablative transplants and stem cells obtained from the blood rather than the marrow. The syndrome typically occurs 4 to 7 months after transplantation but may begin as early as 2 months or as late as 2 or more years after transplantation. Chronic GvHD may occur by itself, evolve from acute GvHD, or occur after resolution of acute GvHD.
The onset of the syndrome may be abrupt but is frequently insidious with manifestations evolving gradually for several weeks. The extent of involvement varies significantly from mild involvement limited to a few patches of skin to severe involvement of numerous organ systems and profound immunodeficiency. The most commonly involved tissues are the skin, liver, mouth, and eyes. Patients with limited disease have localized skin involvement, evidence of liver dysfunction, or both, whereas those with more involvement of the skin or involvement of other organs have extensive disease.
Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma
The optimal management of MF is undetermined because of its low prevalence, and its highly variable natural history, with frequent spontaneous remissions and exacerbations and often prolonged survival.
Nonaggressive approaches to therapy are usually warranted with treatment aimed at improving symptoms and physical appearance while limiting toxicity. Given that multiple skin sites are usually involved, the initial treatment choices are usually topical or intralesional corticosteroids or phototherapy using psoralen (a compound found in plants which make the skin temporarily sensitive to ultraviolet A) (PUVA). PUVA is not curative and its influence on disease progression remains uncertain. Repeated courses are usually required which may lead to an increased risk of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer. For thicker plaques, particularly if localized, radiotherapy with superficial electrons is an option.
“Second line” therapy for early stage disease is often topical chemotherapy, radiotherapy or total skin electron beam radiation (TSEB).
Treatment of advanced stage (IIB-IV) MF usually consists of topical or systemic therapy in refractory or rapidly progressive SS.
Bone marrow transplantation and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation have been used to treat many malignant hematologic disorders (e.g., leukemias) that are refractory to conventional treatment. Reports on the use of these procedures for the treatment of CTCL are limited and mostly consist of case reports or small case series.
Chronic Graft Versus Host Disease
Patients who develop cGvHD require reinstitution of immunosuppressive medication (if already discontinued) or an increase in dosage and possibly addition of other agents. The current literature regarding cGvHD therapy is less than optimal and many recommendations about therapy are based on common practices that await definitive testing. Patients with disease that is extensive by definition but is indolent in clinical appearance may respond to prednisone. However, patients with more aggressive disease are treated with higher doses of corticosteroids and/or cyclosporine.
Numerous salvage therapies have been considered in patients with refractory cGvHD, including ECP. Due to uncertainty around salvage therapies, Bhushan and Collins suggested that ideally, patients with refractory cGvHD should be entered into clinical trials.
Two Ontario expert consultants jointly estimated that there may be approximately 30 new erythrodermic treatment resistant CTCL patients and 30 new treatment resistant cGvHD patients per year who are unresponsive to other forms of therapy and may be candidates for ECP.
Extracorporeal photopheresis is a procedure that was initially developed as a treatment for CTCL, particularly SS.
Current Technique
Extracorporeal photopheresis is an immunomodulatory technique based on pheresis of light sensitive cells. Whole blood is removed from patients followed by pheresis. Lymphocytes are separated by centrifugation to create a concentrated layer of white blood cells. The lymphocyte layer is treated with methoxsalen (a drug that sensitizes the lymphocytes to light) and exposed to UVA, following which the lymphocytes are returned to the patient. Red blood cells and plasma are returned to the patient between each cycle.
Photosensitization is achieved by administering methoxsalen to the patient orally 2 hours before the procedure, or by injecting methoxsalen directly ino the leucocyte rich fraction. The latter approach avoids potential side effects such as nausea, and provides a more consistent drug level within the machine.
In general, from the time the intravenous line is inserted until the white blood cells are returned to the patient takes approximately 2.5-3.5 hours.
For CTCL, the treatment schedule is generally 2 consecutive days every 4 weeks for a median of 6 months. For cGvHD, an expert in the field estimated that the treatment schedule would be 3 times a week for the 1st month, then 2 consecutive days every 2 weeks after that (i.e., 4 treatments a month) for a median of 6 to 9 months.
Regulatory Status
The UVAR XTS Photopheresis System is licensed by Health Canada as a Class 3 medical device (license # 7703) for the “palliative treatment of skin manifestations of CTCL.” It is not licensed for the treatment of cGvHD.
UVADEX (sterile solution methoxsalen) is not licensed by Health Canada, but can be used in Canada via the Special Access Program. (Personal communication, Therakos, February 16, 2006)
According to the manufacturer, the UVAR XTS photopheresis system licensed by Health Canada can also be used with oral methoxsalen. (Personal communication, Therakos, February 16, 2006) However, oral methoxsalen is associated with side effects, must be taken by the patient in advance of ECP, and has variable absorption in the gastrointestinal tract.
According to Health Canada, UVADEX is not approved for use in Canada. In addition, a review of the Product Monographs of the methoxsalen products that have been approved in Canada showed that none of them have been approved for oral administration in combination with the UVAR XTS photophoresis system for “the palliative treatment of the skin manifestations of cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma”.
In the United States, the UVAR XTS Photopheresis System is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for “use in the ultraviolet-A (UVA) irradiation in the presence of the photoactive drug methoxsalen of extracorporeally circulating leukocyte-enriched blood in the palliative treatment of the skin manifestations of CTCL in persons who have not been responsive to other therapy.”
UVADEX is approved by the FDA for use in conjunction with UVR XTS photopheresis system for “use in the ultraviolet-A (UVA) irradiation in the presence of the photoactive drug methoxsalen of extracorporeally circulating leukocyte-enriched blood in the palliative treatment of the skin manifestations of CTCL in persons who have not been responsive to other therapy.”
The use of the UVAR XTS photopheresis system or UVADEX for cGvHD is an off-label use of a FDA approved device/drug.
Summary of Findings
The quality of the trials was examined.
As stated by the GRADE Working Group, the following definitions were used in grading the quality of the evidence.
Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma
Overall, there is low-quality evidence that ECP improves response rates and survival in patients with refractory erythrodermic CTCL (Table 1).
Limitations in the literature related to ECP for the treatment of refractory erythrodermic CTCL include the following:
Different treatment regimens.
Variety of forms of CTCL (and not necessarily treatment resistant) - MF, erythrodermic MF, SS.
SS with peripheral blood involvement → role of T cell clonality reporting?
Case series (1 small crossover RCT with several limitations)
Small sample sizes.
Response criteria not clearly defined/consistent.
Unclear how concomitant therapy contributed to responses.
Variation in definitions of concomitant therapy
Comparison to historical controls.
Some patients were excluded from analysis because of progression of disease, toxicity and other reasons.
Unclear/strange statistics
Quality of life not reported as an outcome of interest.
The reported CR range is ~ 16% to 23% and the overall reported CR/PR range is ~ 33% to 80%.
The wide range in reported responses to ECP appears to be due to the variability of the patients treated and the way in which the data were presented and analyzed.
Many patients, in mostly retrospective case series, were concurrently on other therapies and were not assessed for comparability of diagnosis or disease stage (MF versus SS; erythrodermic versus not erythrodermic). Blood involvement in patients receiving ECP (e.g., T cell clonality) was not consistently reported, especially in earlier studies. The definitions of partial and complete response also are not standardized or consistent between studies.
Quality of life was reported in one study; however, the scale was developed by the authors and is not a standard validated scale.
Adverse events associated with ECP appear to be uncommon and most involve catheter related infections and hypotension caused by volume depletion.
GRADE Quality of Studies – Extracorporeal Photopheresis for Refractory Erythrodermic Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma
Chronic Graft-Versus-Host Disease
Overall, there is low-quality evidence that ECP improves response rates and survival in patients with refractory cGvHD (Table 2).
Patients in the studies had stem cell transplants due to a variety of hematological disorders (e.g., leukemias, aplastic anemia, thalassemia major, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non Hodgkin’s lymphoma).
In 2001, The Blue Cross Blue Shield Technology Evaluation Centre concluded that ECP meets the TEC criteria as treatment of cGvHD that is refractory to established therapy.
The Catalan health technology assessment (also published in 2001) concluded that ECP is a new but experimental therapeutic alternative for the treatment of the erythrodermal phase of CTCL and cGvHD in allogenic HPTC and that this therapy should be evaluated in the framework of a RCT.
Quality of life (Lansky/Karnofsky play performance score) was reported in 1 study.
The patients in the studies were all refractory to steroids and other immunosuppressive agents, and these drugs were frequently continued concomitantly with ECP.
Criteria for assessment of organ improvement in cGvHD are variable, but PR was typically defined as >50% improvement from baseline parameters and CR as complete resolution of organ involvement.
Followup was variable and incomplete among the studies.
GRADE Quality of Studies – ECP for Refractory cGvHD
As per the GRADE Working Group, overall recommendations consider 4 main factors.
The tradeoffs, taking into account the estimated size of the effect for the main outcome, the confidence limits around those estimates and the relative value placed on the outcome.
The quality of the evidence (Tables 1 and 2).
Translation of the evidence into practice in a specific setting, taking into consideration important factors that could be expected to modify the size of the expected effects such as proximity to a hospital or availability of necessary expertise.
Uncertainty about the baseline risk for the population of interest.
The GRADE Working Group also recommends that incremental costs of healthcare alternatives should be considered explicitly alongside the expected health benefits and harms. Recommendations rely on judgments about the value of the incremental health benefits in relation to the incremental costs. The last column in Table 3 is the overall trade-off between benefits and harms and incorporates any risk/uncertainty.
For refractory erythrodermic CTCL, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is “weak” – the quality of the evidence is “low” (uncertainties due to methodological limitations in the study design in terms of study quality and directness), and the corresponding risk/uncertainty is increased due to an annual budget impact of approximately $1.5M Cdn (based on 30 patients) while the cost-effectiveness of ECP is unknown and difficult to estimate considering that there are no high quality studies of effectiveness. The device is licensed by Health Canada, but the sterile solution of methoxsalen is not licensed.
With an annual budget impact of $1.5 M Cdn (based on 30 patients), and the current expenditure is $1.3M Cdn (for out of country for 7 patients), the potential cost savings based on 30 patients with refractory erythrodermic CTCL is about $3.8 M Cdn (annual).
For refractory cGvHD, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is “weak” – the quality of the evidence is “low” (uncertainties due to methodological limitations in the study design in terms of study quality and directness), and the corresponding risk/uncertainty is increased due to a budget impact of approximately $1.5M Cdn while the cost-effectiveness of ECP is unknown and difficult to estimate considering that there are no high quality studies of effectiveness. Both the device and sterile solution are not licensed by Health Canada for the treatment of cGvHD.
If all the ECP procedures for patients with refractory erythrodermic CTCL and refractory cGvHD were performed in Ontario, the annual budget impact would be approximately $3M Cdn.
Overall GRADE and Strength of Recommendation (Including Uncertainty)
PMCID: PMC3379535  PMID: 23074497
4.  Frequency analysis of TRBV subfamily sjTRECs to characterize T-cell reconstitution in acute leukemia patients after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation 
Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) leads to a prolonged state of immunodeficiency and requires reconstitution of normal T-cell immunity. Signal joint T-cell receptor excision DNA circles (sjTRECs) are markers of developmental proximity to the thymus that have been used to evaluate thymic function related to T-cell immune reconstitution after HSCT. To assess the proliferative history in different T-cell receptor beta variable region (TRBV) subfamilies of T cells after HSCT, expansion of TRBV subfamily-naive T cells was determined by analysis of a series of TRBV-BD1 sjTRECs.
sjTRECs levels were detected by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 43 Chinese acute leukemia patients who underwent allo-HSCT. Twenty-three TRBV-BD1 sjTRECs were amplified by semi-nested PCR. Sixteen age-matched healthy volunteers served as normal controls.
sjTRECs levels were low or undetectable in the first 6 weeks after allo-HSCT and increased after 8 weeks post HSCT; however, sjTRECs levels at week 20 post-HSCT were still less than normal controls. Frequencies of TRBV subfamily sjTRECs in PBMCs from recipients at week 8 post-HSCT (29.17 ± 20.97%) or at week 16 post-HSCT (38.33 ± 9.03%) were significantly lower than those in donors (47.92 ± 13.82%) or recipients at pre-HSCT (45.83 ± 14.03%). However, frequencies of TRBV subfamily sjTRECs in recipients at week 30 post-HSCT (42.71 ± 21.62%) were similar to those in donors and recipients at pre-HSCT. sjTRECs levels in donors had a positive linear correlation with sjTRECs levels in recipients within 8-12 weeks post-HSCT. Patients with acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) or chronic GVHD had profoundly reduced TRECs levels during the first year post-HSCT. Frequencies of BV22-BD1 sjTRECs and BV23-BD1 sjTRECs in patients with GVHD were significantly lower than those in recipients at pre-HSCT, and the frequencies of BV22-BD1 sjTRECs in patients with GVHD were significantly lower than those in donors.
Reconstitution of thymic output function resulted in a period of immunodeficiency, with low or undetectable TRECs after transplantation, although fludarabine-based dose-reduced conditioning regimens were used. GVHD could affect reconstitution of thymic output function and reduce sjTRECs levels and frequencies of TRBV-BD1 sjTRECs. Low frequency of BV22-BD1 and BV23-BD1 sjTRECs might be associated with GVHD.
PMCID: PMC3094391  PMID: 21513557
5.  Prediction of Graft-Versus-Host Disease in Humans by Donor Gene-Expression Profiling 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e23.
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) results from recognition of host antigens by donor T cells following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (AHCT). Notably, histoincompatibility between donor and recipient is necessary but not sufficient to elicit GVHD. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that some donors may be “stronger alloresponders” than others, and consequently more likely to elicit GVHD.
Methods and Findings
To this end, we measured the gene-expression profiles of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from 50 AHCT donors with microarrays. We report that pre-AHCT gene-expression profiling segregates donors whose recipient suffered from GVHD or not. Using quantitative PCR, established statistical tests, and analysis of multiple independent training-test datasets, we found that for chronic GVHD the “dangerous donor” trait (occurrence of GVHD in the recipient) is under polygenic control and is shaped by the activity of genes that regulate transforming growth factor-β signaling and cell proliferation.
These findings strongly suggest that the donor gene-expression profile has a dominant influence on the occurrence of GVHD in the recipient. The ability to discriminate strong and weak alloresponders using gene-expression profiling could pave the way to personalized transplantation medicine.
The donor gene expression profile appears to have a dominant influence on the occurrence of graft-versus-host disease in the recipient.
Editors' Summary
Human blood contains red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, which carry oxygen throughout the body, fight infections, and help blood clot, respectively. Normally, blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells in the bone marrow (and their offspring, peripheral blood stem cells) continually provide new blood cells. Tumors that arise from the bone marrow (such as leukemia and lymphoma, two types of hematopoietic tumor) are often treated by a bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant from a healthy donor to provide new blood-forming stem cells, as a follow-up to chemotherapy or radiotherapy designed to eradicate as much of the tumor as possible. This procedure is called allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (AHCT)—the word allogeneic indicates that the donor and recipient are not genetically identical. When solid organs (for example, kidneys) are transplanted, the recipient's immune system can recognize alloantigens (proteins that vary between individuals) on the donor organ as foreign and reject it. To reduce the risk of rejection, the donor and recipient must have identical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins. MHC matching is also important in AHCT but for further reasons. Here, donor T lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) can attack the skin and other tissues of the host. This graft versus host disease (GVHD) affects many people undergoing AHCT despite MHC matching either soon after transplantation (acute GVHD) or months later (chronic GVHD). As an aside, the transplant may also act against the tumor itself—this is known as a graft versus leukemia effect.
Why Was This Study Done?
GVHD can usually be treated with drugs that damp down the immune system (immunosuppressive drugs), but it would be preferable to avoid GVHD altogether. Indeed, GVHD continues to be the leading cause of nonrelapse mortality following AHCT. Unfortunately, what determines who will develop GVHD after MHC-matched AHCT is unclear. Although GVHD only develops if there are some mismatches in histocompatibility antigens between the donor and host, it does not inevitably develop. Until now, scientists have mainly investigated whether differences between ACHT recipients might explain this observation. But, in this study, the researchers have examined the donors instead to see whether differences in their immune responses might make some donors stronger “alloresponders” than others and consequently more likely to cause GVHD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a molecular biology technique called microarray expression profiling to examine gene expression patterns in the T lymphocytes of peripheral blood stem cell donors. From these patterns, they identified numerous genes whose expression levels discriminated between donors whose MHC-identical transplant recipient developed GVHD after AHCT (GVHD+ donors) and those whose recipient did not develop GVHD (GVHD− donors). The researchers confirmed that the expression levels of 17 of these genes discriminated between GVHD+ and GVHD− donors using a second technique called quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Many of these genes are involved in TGF-β signaling (TGF-β is a protein that helps to control the immune system), cell growth, or proliferation. The researchers also identified four gene pairs that interacted with each other to determine the likelihood that a given donor would induce GVHD. Finally, the researchers computationally retested their data and showed that the measurement of expression levels of each of these genes and of the four interacting gene pairs could correctly identify a donor sample likely to cause GVHD in up to 80% of samples.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the first evidence that the donor's gene expression profile influences the development of GVHD in the recipient after AHCT. The researchers suggest that a “dangerous donor” (strong alloresponder) is a key factor in determining whether GVHD occurs after AHCT and propose that gene expression profiling of donor T lymphocytes might identify those donors likely to cause GVHD. Before this approach can be used to reduce the incidence of GVHD after AHCT, these findings need to be confirmed in many more donors. Also, the development of a test that is accurate enough for clinical use—one that does not miss dangerous donors but does not discard too many safe donors—may require the identification of larger groups of interacting genes. But, if it survives further investigation, the concept of a dangerous donor could represent an important advance in transplantation medicine, one that could help clinicians select low-risk donors for AHCT and tailor patients' immunosuppressive drug regimens according to their donor-determined risk of GVHD.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• The National Marrow Donor Program provides information for patients and physicians on all aspects of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, including GVHD
• The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on bone marrow transplants, GVHD and transplant rejection
• The US National Cancer Institute has a factsheet on bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation
PMCID: PMC1796639  PMID: 17378698
6.  Epidemiology and Outcomes of Clostridium difficile Infections in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Recipients 
Clostridium difficile is a major early infectious complication of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Infections are related to antimicrobial use, underlying host variables, and acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). C. difficile infection is associated with gastrointestinal GVHD after allogeneic HSCT.
Background. Clostridium difficile is the leading cause of infectious diarrhea among hospitalized patients and is a major concern for patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Risk factors and the natural history of C. difficile infection (CDI) are poorly understood in this population.
Methods. We performed a retrospective nested case-control study to describe the epidemiology, timing, and risk factors for CDI among adult patients who received HSCTs at our center from January 2003 through December 2008.
Results. The overall 1-year incidence of CDI was 9.2% among HSCTs performed (n = 999). The median time to diagnosis of CDI was short among both autologous and allogeneic HSCT recipients (6.5 days and 33 days, respectively). Risk factors for CDI in allogeneic HSCT recipients included receipt of chemotherapy prior to conditioning for HSCT, broad-spectrum antimicrobial use, and acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD; adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 4.45; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.54–12.84; P = .006). There was a strong relationship between early CDI and subsequent development of gastrointestinal tract GVHD in the year following allogeneic HSCT (P < .001). Gastrointestinal GVHD was also strongly associated with an increased risk for recurrent CDI (AOR, 4.23 [95% CI, 1.20–14.86]; P = .02).
Conclusions. These results highlight the high incidence and early timing of CDI after HSCT. Early timing, coupled with the noted risk of pretransplant chemotherapy, suggests that the natural history of disease in some patients may involve colonization prior to HSCT. A potentially important interplay between CDI and GVHD involving the gastrointestinal tract was observed.
PMCID: PMC3309884  PMID: 22412059
7.  Pharmacologic Blockade of JAK1/JAK2 Reduces GvHD and Preserves the Graft-Versus-Leukemia Effect 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109799.
We have recently reported that interferon gamma receptor deficient (IFNγR−/−) allogeneic donor T cells result in significantly less graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) than wild-type (WT) T cells, while maintaining an anti-leukemia or graft-versus-leukemia (GvL) effect after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). We demonstrated that IFNγR signaling regulates alloreactive T cell trafficking to GvHD target organs through expression of the chemokine receptor CXCR3 in alloreactive T cells. Since IFNγR signaling is mediated via JAK1/JAK2, we tested the effect of JAK1/JAK2 inhibition on GvHD. While we demonstrated that pharmacologic blockade of JAK1/JAK2 in WT T cells using the JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor, INCB018424 (Ruxolitinib), resulted in a similar effect to IFNγR−/− T cells both in vitro (reduction of CXCR3 expression in T cells) and in vivo (mitigation of GvHD after allo-HSCT), it remains to be determined if in vivo administration of INCB018424 will result in preservation of GvL while reducing GvHD. Here, we report that INCB018424 reduces GvHD and preserves the beneficial GvL effect in two different murine MHC-mismatched allo-HSCT models and using two different murine leukemia models (lymphoid leukemia and myeloid leukemia). In addition, prolonged administration of INCB018424 further improves survival after allo-HSCT and is superior to other JAK1/JAK2 inhibitors, such as TG101348 or AZD1480. These data suggest that pharmacologic inhibition of JAK1/JAK2 might be a promising therapeutic approach to achieve the beneficial anti-leukemia effect and overcome HLA-barriers in allo-HSCT. It might also be exploited in other diseases besides GvHD, such as organ transplant rejection, chronic inflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC4188578  PMID: 25289677
8.  Severe hyperglycemia immediately after allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation is predictive of acute graft-versus-host disease 
Inflammation  2013;36(1):177-185.
Stress hyperglycemia and acute graft versus host disease (GVHD), the major early complication of hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT), are both associated with excessive release of inflammatory cytokines. We investigated whether new-onset hyperglycemia immediately after HSCT predicts acute GVHD.
We studied nondiabetic adult recipients of human leukocyte antigen(HLA)-matched HSCT (peripheral blood stem-cells) for acute leukemia. Using mean morning serum glucose on Day 1–10, we classified hyperglycemia as: mild (6.11–8.33 mmol/L), moderate (8.34–9.98), severe (minimum 9.99). Subjects GVHD-free on Day 10 were followed Day 11–100 for grade II-IV acute GVHD or competing event (relapse or death). Evaluation utilized cumulative incidence-based proportional hazards regression.
Subjects (n=328) were age 18–74, median 49 years. Per body mass index (BMI), 25.0% were obese (BMI 30–48), 33.8% overweight (25–<30), 30.8% normal weight (21–;<25), and 10.4% lean (18–;<21). Mild, moderate, or severe hyperglycemia occurred Day 1–10 in 50.0%, 21.3%, and 16.8% of subjects, respectively. Cumulative incidence on Day 100 was 44.8(±2.8)% acute GVHD and 7.9(±1.5)% competing event. Among normal-to-overweight subjects (n=212), severe hyperglycemia developed in 14.2% (n=30) and more than doubled the risk of acute GVHD (hazards ratio, HR, 2.71, 95% CI 1.58–4.65, adjusted for donor/recipient characteristics, prophylactic regimen, and mucositis). In contrast, among obese subjects (n=82), severe hyperglycemia developed in 30.5% (n=25) but did not significantly affect risk of GVHD. (No lean subjects (n=34) developed severe hyperglycemia.) Hyperglycemia that was less than severe had an effect indistinguishable from normoglycemia.
In nondiabetic patients, severe hyperglycemia immediately after allogeneic HSCT indicates increased likelihood of acute GVHD. This association is absent in obese patients, who may be primed by obesity-induced inflammation to develop severe hyperglycemia even without experiencing the cytokine storm that is essential to GVHD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3546172  PMID: 22987342
Acute graft versus host disease; Biomarker; Glucose metabolism disorders; Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; Leukemia
9.  The Effect of GVHD on Long-term Outcomes after Peripheral Blood Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation from an HLA-identical Sibling in Adult Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia: A Landmark Analysis Approach in Competing Risks 
Allogeneic Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is the most effective therapy to prevent relapse in acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). This benefit is affected by non-relapse mortality (NRM) due to complications such as graft versus host disease (GVHD). A new approach in analyzing time-dependent covariates in competing risks is landmark analysis. So, the aim of this study is to evaluate the effect of acute and chronic GVHD on long-term outcomes, relapse and NRM, after allogeneic HSCT in adult ALL using landmark analysis.
This study was conducted on 252 ALL patients who were allogeneic transplanted from an HLA-identical sibling with peripheral blood (PB) as the source of stem cell from 2004 to 2012 and were followed-up until 2013. In the first 100 days after transplant, a landmark analysis on days +10, +11, +12, +17, +24, and +31 was applied to assess the effect of acute GVHD on early relapse and NRM. Similarly, for patients alive and event-free at day +100 after transplant, a landmark analysis at time points day +101, months +4, +5, +6, +9, and +12 was applied to evaluate the effect of chronic GVHD on late relapse and NRM.
Five-year LFS and OS were 35.0% (95% CI: 29.1, 42.2%) and 37.5% (95% CI: 31.3, 45.0%), respectively. Five-year cumulative incidence of relapse was 44.5% (95% CI: 37.9, 51.0%) while this was 20.4% (95% CI: 15.4, 26.0%) for NRM. The landmark analysis in the first 100 days after transplant showed that the grade III/IV of aGVHD has a lower risk of relapse but higher risk of NRM after adjustment for the EBMT risk score. For patients alive at day +100, cGVHD had no significant effect on relapse. Limited cGVHD had lower risk of NRM and after 6 month post-transplant the risk of NRM decreased and there were not important difference between the groups of cGVHD.
Using advanced models enables us to estimate the effects more precisely and ultimately make inference more accurately.
PMCID: PMC4003436  PMID: 24800032
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia; Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation; Graft versus Host Disease; Survival Analysis; Competing Risks; Landmark Analysis
10.  The kinetics of mRNA transforming growth factor beta1 expression and its serum concentration in graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic hemopoietic stem cell transplantation for myeloid leukemias 
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is still a major complication following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloHSCT). Recent data indicates that transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-β1) may play a role in development of GVH reaction.
Forty patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) were included. Quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) was performed to assess the expression of mRNA TGF-β1. TGF-β1 serum concentration was assessed using a commercial ELISA.
In all patients, a prompt decrease in TGF-β1 mRNA expression and its serum concentration was demonstrated after conditioning. In patients with acute GVHD, TGF-β1 mRNA expression and its serum concentration remained low until day +30 after transplant as compared to the day of transplant (p<0.03 and p<0.006, respectively). TGF-β1 mRNA expression and its serum concentration significantly increased on day +100 in patients who developed chronic GVHD as compared to the day of transplant (p<0.0009 and p<0.02, respectively).
TGF-β1 seems to be an additional regulator of donor engraftment; its low levels probably being one of the factors contributing to the development of acute GVHD. On the other hand, chronic GVHD symptoms seem to correlate with high TGF-β1 mRNA expression and its serum concentration in patients who underwent bone marrow transplantation for myeloid leukemias. Nevertheless, further studies with greater numbers of patients are needed to establish the role of TGF-β1 in graft-versus-host disease pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC3539544  PMID: 21629186
transforming-growth-factor beta1; myeloid leukemia; allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; graft-versus-host disease
11.  Phase 1/2 trial of vorinostat plus tacrolimus and mycophenolate to prevent graft versus host disease following related donor reduced intensity conditioning allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation 
The lancet oncology  2013;15(1):87-95.
Acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains a significant barrier to a more widespread application of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Vorinostat (suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid) is a histone deacetylases (HDAC) inhibitor that has been shown to attenuate GVHD in pre-clinical models. We aimed to study the safety and activity of vorinostat in combination with standard immunoprophylaxis for GVHD prevention in patients undergoing related donor reduced intensity conditioning HSCT.
In this prospective, single-arm phase 1/2 study of vorinostat, we recruited patients with high-risk hematologic malignances at two centers in the USA. We enrolled patients aged 18 years or older who were candidates for a reduced intensity conditioning HSCT and had an available 8/8- or 7/8-Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matched related donor. Disease status had to be adequately controlled at the time of transplant. All patients received a conditioning regimen consisting of fludarabine 40 mg/m2 daily for four days (total dose 160 mg/m2) and busulfan 3·2 mg/kg daily for two days (total dose 6·4 mg/kg). GVHD prophylaxis consisted of mycophenolate mofetil 1 gram three times daily from day 0 and through day 28 and tacrolimus beginning on day −3 pre-HSCT and tapered beginning on day 56 and discontinued by day 180 post-HSCT in the absence of GVHD. The investigational agent, vorinostat, was initiated on day −10 through day 100 post-HSCT. The primary endpoint of the study was grade 2–4 acute GVHD by day 100. We expected to reduce the incidence to 25% from 42% based on similarly treated patients from the study centers and published literature. Patients were assessed for both toxicity and the primary endpoint if at least 21 days of vorinostat were administered. Patients who received less than 21 days of therapy were still assessed for toxicity and were replaced in accordance to the protocol. The trial is registered with, NCT00810602.
Between March 2008 and February 2013, we enrolled 50 patients evaluable for both toxicity and response. All patients engrafted neutrophils and platelets at expected times post-HSCT. The median percentages of chimerism in whole-blood at day 100 and 1-year were 98% (interquartile range [IQR], 98–100) and 100% (IQR, 100–100), respectively. The primary endpoint of the study was met with a day 100 cumulative incidence of grade 2–4 acute GVHD of 22% (95% cumulative incidence: 13%, 36%). Eight additional patients enrolled were assessed for toxicity only, in accordance with the protocol, because they received less than 21 days of study drug. The most common non-hematologic adverse events were all grade 3 and included electrolyte disturbances (N=15), hyperglycemia (N=10), infections (N=4), mucositis (N=4), and elevated liver enzymes (N=3). There was one grade 4 hypokalemia event and two grade 4 infections. Non-symptomatic thrombocytopenia which occurred after engraftment was the most common hematologic grade 3 or 4 adverse event (N=9), but was transient and all cases resolved swiftly.
Administration of vorinostat in combination with standard GVHD prophylaxis after related donor reduced intensity conditioning HSCT is safe and appears to reduce severe GVHD. Future studies are needed to assess the effect of vorinostat in the prevention of GVHD in broader HSCT settings.
PMCID: PMC4103793  PMID: 24295572
GVHD; hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; HDAC inhibitor; vorinostat
12.  Timeline, Epidemiology, and Risk Factors for Bacterial, Fungal, and Viral Infections in Children and Adolescents after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation 
Advances made in the field of hematopoietic stem cell transplantations (HSCT) over the past 20 years may have had an impact on the distribution of posttransplantation infections. We sought to retrospectively analyze the epidemiology and risk factors for bacterial, fungal, and viral infections in children after allogeneic HSCT in a cohort of 759 children who underwent allogeneic HSCT in a single institution between 1990 and 2009. The association between infections and risk factors of interest at 0 to 30 days, 31 to 100 days, and 101 days to 2 years posttransplantation was evaluated using logistic regression. Difference among the subtypes within each category was studied. There were 243 matched-related donors, 239 matched-unrelated donors (MUDs), and 176 haploidentical donor transplantations. Era of transplantation (0–30 days), peripheral blood stem cell product, acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD; 31–100 days), and chronic GVHD (cGVHD; 101–730 days) were associated with higher risk for bacterial infections at the respective time periods. Patients with aGVHD (31–100 days), cGVHD, and older age (101–730 days) were at higher risk for fungal infections. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) donor/recipient (D/R) serostatus (0–100 days), era of transplantation, MUD HSCT (31–100 days), and cGVHD (101–730 days), influenced viral infections. Gram-positive outnumbered gramnegative bacterial infections; aspergillosis and candidemia were equally prevalent in all time periods. Haploidentical donor HSCT was not associated with an increased risk of infections. There seems to be a continuum in the timeline of infections posttransplantation, with bacterial, fungal, and viral infections prevalent in all time periods, particularly late after the transplantation, the risk affected by GVHD, CMV, D/R status, product type, older age, and use of unrelated donors.
PMCID: PMC3554248  PMID: 22922523
Infections; Children; Allogeneic; Stem cell transplant
13.  Reduced-intensity and myeloablative conditioning allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in patients with acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome: a meta-analysis and systematic review 
Background: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to compare the clinical outcomes and toxicity of reduced-intensity conditioning (RIC) and myeloablative conditioning (MAC) allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloHSCT) in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Evidence acquisition: A comprehensive PubMed and Embase search was performed using the following keywords: “reduced-intensity”, “myeloablative”, “AML”, and “MDS”. The primary endpoints were overall survival (OS) and event-free survival (EFS), and the secondary endpoints were relapse incidence (RI), non-relapse mortality (NRM), grade II-IV acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD), and chronic GVHD (cGVHD). Results: Eight studies (2 prospective and 6 retrospective) involving 6464 patients who received RIC (n = 1571) or MAC (n = 4893) alloHSCT were included in the analysis. Median age and the number of patients with low hematopoietic cell transplantation-specific comorbidity index scores and who received ex vivo or in vivo T cell depletion were higher in the RIC arm than in the MAC arm. Significant heterogeneity was not found among the studies for any of the endpoints except for grade II-IV aGVHD. OS (odds ratio [OR], 0.96; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.84-1.08; p = 0.47) and EFS (OR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.77-1.00; p = 0.05) were similar in the RIC and MAC arms, whereas RI (OR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.24-1.59; p < 0.00001) was higher in the RIC arm than in the MAC arm. The incidence of grade II-IV aGVHD (OR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.36-0.96; p = 0.03) was lower in the RIC arm than in the MAC arm; however, NRM (OR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.87-1.13; p = 0.85), total cGVHD (OR, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.88-1.38; p = 0.38), and extensive cGVHD (OR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.75-1.37; p = 0.95) were not significantly different between the two arms. Conclusion: RIC alloHSCT may be an effective treatment strategy for AML/MDS patients who are not suitable candidates for MAC alloHSCT. However, heterogeneity in baseline patient characteristics and treatment protocols may have influenced the outcomes of RIC alloHSCT in our analysis. Future randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm our findings.
PMCID: PMC4276213  PMID: 25550955
Reduced-intensity conditioning; myeloablative conditioning; allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; acute myeloid leukemia; myelodysplastic syndrome; meta-analysis; systematic review
14.  The effectiveness of tacrolimus and minidose methotrexate in the prevention of acute graft-versus-host disease following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in children: a single-center study in Korea 
The Korean Journal of Hematology  2012;47(2):113-118.
Knowledge of the roles of tacrolimus and minidose methotrexate (MTX) in the prevention of acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) in pediatric allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is limited. We retrospectively evaluated the engraftment status, incidence of aGVHD and chronic GVHD (cGVHD), and toxicities of tacrolimus and minidose MTX in aGVHD prophylaxis in children undergoing allogeneic HSCT.
Seventeen children, who underwent allogeneic HSCT and received tacrolimus and minidose MTX as GVHD prophylaxis from March 2003 to February 2011, were reviewed retrospectively. All the patients received tacrolimus since the day before transplantation at a dose of 0.03 mg/kg/day and MTX at a dose of 5 mg/m2 on days 1, 3, 6, and 11.
Of the 17 patients, 9 received human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-matched related donor transplants, and 8 received HLA-matched, or partially mismatched unrelated donor transplants. The median time for follow-up was 55 months. The incidence of aGVHD in the related and unrelated donor groups was 22.2% and 42.9%, respectively. cGVHD was not observed. To maintain therapeutic blood levels of tacrolimus, the younger group (<8 years of age) required an increased mean dose compared to the older group (≥8 years) (P=0.0075). The adverse events commonly associated with tacrolimus included hypomagnesemia (88%), nephrotoxicity (23%), and hyperglycemia (23%).
Tacrolimus and minidose MTX were well tolerated and effective in GVHD prophylaxis in pediatric patients undergoing allogeneic HSCT. Children <8 years of age undergoing HSCT required increased doses of tacrolimus to achieve therapeutic levels.
PMCID: PMC3389059  PMID: 22783357
Tacrolimus; Methotrexate; Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; Acute graft-versus-host disease; Children
15.  Outcome of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia in second complete remission: a single institution study 
Korean Journal of Pediatrics  2012;55(3):100-106.
The survival rate for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has improved significantly. However, overall prognosis for the 20 to 25% of patients who relapse is poor, and allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) offers the best chance for cure. In this study, we identified significant prognostic variables by analyzing the outcomes of allogeneic HSCT in ALL patients in second complete remission (CR).
Fifty-three ALL patients (42 men, 79%) who received HSCT in second CR from August 1991 to February 2009 were included (26 sibling donor HSCTs, 49%; 42 bone marrow transplantations, 79%). Study endpoints included cumulative incidence of acute and chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), relapse, 1-year transplant-related mortality (TRM), disease-free survival (DFS), and overall survival (OS).
Cumulative incidences of acute GVHD (grade 2 or above) and chronic GVHD were 45.3% and 28.5%, respectively. The estimated 5-year DFS and OS for the cohort was 45.2±6.8% and 48.3±7%, respectively. Only donor type, i.e., sibling versus unrelated, showed significant correlation with DFS in multivariate analysis (P=0.010). The rates of relapse and 1 year TRM were 28.9±6.4% and 26.4±6.1%, respectively, and unrelated donor HSCT (P=0.002) and HLA mismatch (P=0.022) were significantly correlated with increased TRM in univariate analysis.
In this single institution study spanning more than 17 years, sibling donor HSCT was the only factor predicting a favorable result in multivariate analysis, possibly due to increased TRM resulting from unrelated donor HSCT.
PMCID: PMC3315619  PMID: 22474465
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia; Child; Second complete remission; Transplantation
16.  Twenty Years of Experience on Stem Cell Transplantation in Iran 
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is a new window to therapy of many diseases. From March 1991 through April 2011, a total of 3237 HSCT were performed in the Hematology-Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation Research Center, affiliated to Tehran University of Medical Sciences. Here we report 20 years experience of HSCT.
Our strategy and aim include the protraction of cytogenetic and molecular biological diagnostic tests, the expansion of the first Iranian Cord Blood Bank (ICBB) and development of the first Iranian Stem Cell Donor Program (ISCDP), and improvement the researches in new therapeutic fields.
Patients and Methods
Totally, 3237 patients were undergone HSCT. Of these transplants, 2205 were allogeneic stem cell transplantation, 1016 autologous and 16 syngeneic. Among 2205 patients who were undergone allogenic-HSCT, 34 received cord blood stem cells as stem cell source for transplantation. It is important to point out that cord blood bank at our center provides reliable storage of cord blood stem cells for our patients. Stem cell transplantation was performed for treatment of various diseases such as acute myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, chronic lymphoblastic leukemia, beta-thalassemia major, sickle- cell thalassemia, sickle- cell disease, multiple myeloma, myelodysplasia, mucopolysaccharidosis, paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, severe aplastic anemia, plasma cell leukemia, Niemann-Pick disease, Fanconi anemia, severe combined immunodeficiency, congenital neutropenia, leukocyte adhesion deficiencies, Chediak-Higashi syndrome, osteopetrosis, histiocytosis X, Hurler syndrome, amyloidosis, systemic sclerosis, breast cancer, Ewing's sarcoma, testicular cancer, germ cell tumors, neuroblastoma, medulloblastoma, renal cell carcinoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, ovarian cancer, Wilms’ tumor, rhabdomyosarcoma, pancreatoblastoma, and multiple sclerosis. Also, we had 220 cellular therapies for post-myocardial infarction, multiple sclerosis, cirrhosis, head of femur necrosis, Diabetes Mellitus and GvHD treatment. 45 patients were undergone retransplantation in this center.
About 78.2% of the patients (2530 of 3237) remained alive between one to 211 months after stem cell transplantation. Nearly, 21.8% (707) of our patients died after stem cell transplantation. The main causes of death were relapse, infection, hemorrhagic cystitis, graft-versus- host disease and etc.
In Iran, HSCT has been successfully adapted in routine clinical care. Recently, new methods such as double cord blood and haploidentical transplantation have been used to treat many life-threatening diseases.
PMCID: PMC3652510  PMID: 23682320
Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation; Leukemia; Beta-Thalassemia
17.  T-cell depleted stem-cell transplantation for adults with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia: long-term survival for patients in 1st complete remission with a decreased risk of graft-versus-host disease 
Consolidation with allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (allo-HSCT) provides a survival benefit to patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). We have previously reported comparable survival and relapse rates after T-cell depleted (TCD) allo-HSCT compared to unmodified transplants for acute myelogenous leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma with significantly decreased graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). We performed a 56 patient retrospective study to evaluate TCD allo-HSCT for the treatment of ALL following myeloablative TBI-based therapy. The 2-year and 5-year OS for patients with ALL after TCD-HSCT was 0.39 (95% CI: 0.26-0.52) and 0.32 (95% CI: 0.19-0.44), respectively. The 2-year and 5-year DFS was 0.38 (95% CI: 0.25-0.50) and 0.32 (95% CI: 0.20-0.44). There was a trend toward improved survival of patients who entered TCD allo-HSCT in first complete remission, compared with other remission states. The cumulative incidence of grade II-IV acute GVHD at one year was 0.20 (95% CI: 0.10-0.31), and no patients developed grade IV acute GVHD. The cumulative incidence of chronic GVHD in 41 evaluable patients at 2 and 5 years was 0.15 (95% CI: 0.04, 0.26), and that of extensive chronic GVHD at 2 and 5 years was 0.05 (95% CI: 0, 11.6). We demonstrate OS and DFS rates that compare favorably to unmodified allo-HSCT with lower rates of GVHD.
PMCID: PMC3963704  PMID: 22982534
18.  Flagellin, a TLR5 agonist, reduces GvHD in allogeneic HSCT recipients while enhancing anti-viral immunity1 
Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients treated with allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Post-transplant immunosuppressive drugs incompletely control GvHD and increase susceptibility to opportunistic infections. In this study we used flagellin, a TLR5 agonist protein (~50 kDa) extracted from bacterial flagella, as a novel experimental treatment strategy to reduce both acute and chronic GvHD in allogeneic HSCT recipient. Based upon the radio-protective effects of flagellin, we hypothesized that flagellin could ameliorate GvHD in lethally irradiated murine models of allogeneic HSCT. Two doses of highly purified flagellin (administered 3 hrs. before irradiation and 24 hrs. after HSCT) reduced GvHD and led to better survival in both H-2b → CB6F1 and H-2k → B6 allogeneic HSCT models while preserving over 99% donor T cells chimerism. Flagellin treatment preserved long-term post-transplant immune reconstitution characterized by more donor thymic-derived CD4+CD25+foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) and significantly enhanced anti-viral immunity following murine cytomegalovirus (mCMV) infection model. The proliferation index and activation status of donor spleen-derived T cells, and serum concentration of pro-inflammatory cytokines in flagellin-treated recipients were reduced significantly within 4 days post-transplant compared with the PBS-treated control recipients. Allogeneic transplantation of radiation chimeras previously engrafted with TLR5 knockout hematopoietic cells showed that interactions between flagellin and TLR5 expressed on both donor hematopoietic and host non-hematopoietic cells were required to reduce GvHD. Thus, the peri-transplant administration of flagellin is a novel therapeutic approach control GvHD while preserving post-transplant donor immunity.
PMCID: PMC3265143  PMID: 22013117
19.  Possible Implication of Bacterial Infection in Acute Graft-Versus-Host Disease after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation 
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is still one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). In the pathogenesis of acute GVHD, it has been established that donor-derived T-cells activated in the recipient play a major role in GVHD in initiation and maintenance within an inflammatory cascade. To reduce the risk of GVHD, intensification of GVHD prophylaxis like T-cell depletion is effective, but it inevitably increases the risk of infectious diseases and abrogates beneficial graft-versus-leukemia effects. Although various cytokines are considered to play an important role in the pathogenesis of GVHD, GVHD initiation is such a complex process that cannot be prevented by means of single inflammatory cytokine inhibition. Thus, efficient methods to control the whole inflammatory milieu both on cellular and humoral view are needed. In this context, infectious diseases can theoretically contribute to an elevation of inflammatory cytokines after allogeneic HSCT and activation of various subtypes of immune effector cells, which might in summary lead to an aggravation of acute GVHD. The appropriate treatments or prophylaxis of bacterial infection during the early phase after allogeneic HSCT might be beneficial to reduce not only infectious-related but also GVHD-related mortality. Here, we aim to review the literature addressing the interactions of bacterial infections and GVHD after allogeneic HSCT.
PMCID: PMC4006055  PMID: 24795865
bacterial infection; GVHD; allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; pathogen-associated molecular patterns; LPS
20.  Total lymphoid irradiation based conditioning for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in severe aplastic anemia 
Radiation Oncology Journal  2012;30(4):165-172.
To retrospectively evaluate the outcome and toxicity of total lymphoid irradiation (TLI) based conditioning regimen for allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) in severe aplastic anemia (SAA) patients who experienced an engraftment failure from prior HSCT or were heavily transfused.
Materials and Methods
Between 1995 and 2006, 20 SAA patients received TLI for conditioning of HSCT. All patients were multi-transfused or had long duration of disease. Fifteen (75%) patients had graft failure from prior HSCT. In 18 (90%) patients, the donors were human leukocyte antigen identical siblings. The stem cell source was the peripheral blood stem cell in 15 (75%) patients. The conditioning regimen was composed of antithymocyte globulin plus TLI with a median dose of 750 cGy in 1 fraction. The graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) prophylaxis used cyclosporine with methotrexate.
With a median follow-up of 10.8 years, graft failures developed in 6 patients. Among them, 3 patients received their third HSCT to be engrafted finally. The Kaplan-Meier overall survival rate was 85.0% and 83.1% at 5 and 10 years, respectively. The incidence of acute and chronic GVHD was 20% and 20%, respectively. None of the patients have developed a malignancy after HSCT.
In our study, TLI based conditioning in allogeneic HSCT was feasible with acceptable rates of GVHD in SAA patients who experienced graft failure from prior HSCT or was at a high risk of graft rejection. We achieved relatively better results of engraftment and survival with a long term follow-up.
PMCID: PMC3546284  PMID: 23346535
Aplastic anemia; Total lymphoid irradiation; Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation
21.  CD4+CD25highCD127low Regulatory T Cells in Peripheral Blood Are Not an Independent Factor for Chronic Graft-versus-Host Disease after Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation 
The Scientific World Journal  2012;2012:606839.
Background. The therapeutic efficacy of allogeneic hemopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) largely relies on the graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect. Uncontrolled graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a feared complication of HSCT. Regulatory T cells (Treg) are a subset of CD4+ T-helper cells believed to maintain tolerance after HSCT. It remains unclear whether low peripheral blood Treg have an impact on the risk for acute (aGVHD) and chronic GVHD (cGVHD). Methods. In this paper we enumerated the CD4+CD25highCD127low Treg in the peripheral blood of 84 patients after at least 150 days from HSCT and in 20 healthy age-matched controls. Results. Although similar mean lymphocyte counts were found in patients and controls, CD3+CD4+ T-cell counts were significantly lower in patients. Patients also had significantly lower Treg percentages among lymphocytes as compared to controls. Patients with cGVHD had even higher percentages of Treg if compared to patients without cGVHD. In multivariate analysis, Treg percentages were not an independent factor for cGVHD. Conclusions. This paper did not show a relation between deficient peripheral blood Treg and cGVHD, therefore cGVHD does not seem to occur as a result of peripheral Treg paucity.
PMCID: PMC3361289  PMID: 22666141
22.  Early central nervous system complications after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in children 
The Korean Journal of Hematology  2010;45(3):164-170.
Central nervous system (CNS) complications after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) have not been well characterized in the pediatric population.
We retrospectively analyzed data of 202 consecutive children who underwent allogeneic HSCT (60 from matched related donors, 9 from mismatched related donors, and 133 from unrelated donors) at Asan Medical Center between 1998 and 2009.
Twenty-seven children (13.5%) developed CNS complications within 6 months after HSCT. Calcineurin inhibitor (CNI)-associated neurotoxicity was the most common CNS complication (n=16), followed by CNS infection (n=2), cerebrovascular events (n=2), thrombotic microangiopathy-associated events (n=2), metabolic encephalopathy (n=2), irradiation/chemotherapy injury (n=1), and encephalopathy/myelopathy of unknown causes (n=2). Univariate analysis showed that a transplant from an alternative donor and the occurrence of acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) (>grade 2) were associated with a significantly increased risk of CNS complications. In the multivariate analysis, acute GVHD >grade 2 was identified as an independent risk factor for early CNS complications. The 5-year overall survival rate was significantly lower in patients with CNS complications (52.1% vs. 64.9%, P=0.014), whereas CNI-associated neurotoxicity did not affect the survival outcome.
CNS complications are frequent among children undergoing HSCT, contributing to early death after transplant. More attention should be paid to the development of CNS complications for recipients of alternative donor transplants and patients with severe acute GVHD who are at increased risk for CNS complications.
PMCID: PMC2983044  PMID: 21120204
Allogeneic; Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; Neurological complication; Cyclosporine; Children
23.  Induction of Alloantigen-specific Anergy in Human Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells by Alloantigen Stimulation with Co-stimulatory Signal Blockade 
Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) offers the best chance of cure for many patients with congenital and acquired hematologic diseases. Unfortunately, transplantation of alloreactive donor T cells which recognize and damage healthy patient tissues can result in Graft-versus-Host Disease (GvHD)1. One challenge to successful AHSCT is the prevention of GvHD without associated impairment of the beneficial effects of donor T cells, particularly immune reconstitution and prevention of relapse. GvHD can be prevented by non-specific depletion of donor T cells from stem cell grafts or by administration of pharmacological immunosuppression. Unfortunately these approaches increase infection and disease relapse2-4. An alternative strategy is to selectively deplete alloreactive donor T cells after allostimulation by recipient antigen presenting cells (APC) before transplant. Early clinical trials of these allodepletion strategies improved immune reconstitution after HLA-mismatched HSCT without excess GvHD5, 6. However, some allodepletion techniques require specialized recipient APC production6, 7and some approaches may have off-target effects including depletion of donor pathogen-specific T cells8and CD4 T regulatory cells9.One alternative approach is the inactivation of alloreactive donor T cells via induction of alloantigen-specific hyporesponsiveness. This is achieved by stimulating donor cells with recipient APC while providing blockade of CD28-mediated co-stimulation signals10.This "alloanergization" approach reduces alloreactivity by 1-2 logs while preserving pathogen- and tumor-associated antigen T cell responses in vitro11. The strategy has been successfully employed in 2 completed and 1 ongoing clinical pilot studies in which alloanergized donor T cells were infused during or after HLA-mismatched HSCT resulting in rapid immune reconstitution, few infections and less severe acute and chronic GvHD than historical control recipients of unmanipulated HLA-mismatched transplantation12. Here we describe our current protocol for the generation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) which have been alloanergized to HLA-mismatched unrelated stimulator PBMC. Alloanergization is achieved by allostimulation in the presence of monoclonal antibodies to the ligands B7.1 and B7.1 to block CD28-mediated costimulation. This technique does not require the production of specialized stimulator APC and is simple to perform, requiring only a single and relatively brief ex vivo incubation step. As such, the approach can be easily standardized for clinical use to generate donor T cells with reduced alloreactivity but retaining pathogen-specific immunity for adoptive transfer in the setting of AHSCT to improve immune reconstitution without excessive GvHD.
PMCID: PMC3197423  PMID: 21445041
Immunology;  Issue 49;  Allogeneic stem cell transplantation;  alloreactivity;  Graft-versus-Host Disease;  T cell costimulation;  anergy;  mixed lymphocyte reaction.
24.  Factors associated with bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome and chronic graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation 
American journal of hematology  2014;89(4):404-409.
Bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS) is a form of chronic graft vs. host disease (cGVHD) and a highly morbid pulmonary complication after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). We assessed the prevalence and risk factors for BOS and cGVHD in a cohort of HSCT recipients, including those who received reduced intensity conditioning (RIC) HSCT. Between January 1, 2000 and June 30, 2010, all patients who underwent allogeneic HSCT at our institution (n = 1854) were retrospectively screened for the development of BOS by PFT criteria. We matched the BOS cases with two groups of control patients: (1) patients who had concurrent cGVHD without BOS and (2) those who developed neither cGVHD nor BOS. Comparisons between BOS patients and controls were conducted using t-test or Fisher’s exact tests. Multivariate regression analysis was performed to examine factors associated with BOS diagnosis. All statistical analyses were performed using SAS 9.2. We identified 89 patients (4.8%) meeting diagnostic criteria for BOS at a median time of 491 days (range: 48–2067) after HSCT. Eighty-six (97%) of our BOS cohort had extra-pulmonary cGVHD. In multivariate analysis compared to patients without cGVHD, patients who received busulfan-based conditioning, had unrelated donors, and had female donors were significantly more likely to develop BOS, while ATG administration was associated with a lower risk of BOS. Our novel results suggest that busulfan conditioning, even in RIC transplantation, could be an important risk factor for BOS and cGVHD.
PMCID: PMC4314109  PMID: 24375545
25.  Ocular manifestations of graft-versus-host disease 
Saudi Journal of Ophthalmology  2013;27(3):215-222.
Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has evolved over the past two decades to become the standard of care for hematologic and lymphoid malignancies. Major ocular complications after allogeneic HSCT have been increasing in number and severity. Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains a major cause of ocular morbidity after allogeneic HSCT. The main objective of this review is to elucidate the ocular complications in patients developing GVHD following HSCT.
Ocular complications secondary to GVHD are common and include dry eye syndrome, acquisition of ocular allergy from donors with allergic disorders. Eyelid changes may occur in GVHD leading to scleroderma-like changes. Patients may develop poliosis, madarosis, vitiligo, lagophthalmos, and entropion. The cornea may show filamentary keratitis, superficial punctate keratitis, corneal ulcers, and peripheral corneal melting which may lead to perforation in severe cases. Scleritis may also occur which can be anterior or posterior. Keratoconjunctivis sicca appears to be the most common presentation of GVHD. The lacrimal glands may be involved with mononuclear cell infiltration of both the major and accessory lacrimal glands and decrease in tear production.
Severe dry eye syndrome in patients with GVHD may develop conjunctival scarring, keratinization, and cicatrization of the conjunctiva.
Therapy of GVHD includes systemic immunosuppression and local therapy. Surgical treatment in refractory cases includes surgical intervention to improve the manifestation of GVHD of the eye. This may include tarsorrhapy, prose lenses, punctal occlusions and corneal transplantation.
PMCID: PMC3770225  PMID: 24227989
Transplantation; Graft-versus-host disease; Ocular

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