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Intentional donor lymphocyte-induced limited acute graft-versus-host disease is essential for long-term survival of relapsed acute myeloid leukemia after allogeneic stem cell transplantation

Matthias Eefting, Peter A von dem Borne, Liesbeth C de Wreede, Constantijn J M Halkes, Sabina Kersting, Erik W A Marijt, Hendrik Veelken, Jh Frederik Falkenburg
Haematologica 2014, 99 (4): 751-8
The prognosis of patients with relapsed acute myeloid leukemia after allogeneic transplantation is poor. We hypothesized that initial disease control by effective cytoreduction, followed by rapid induction of a profound allo-immune response by donor-lymphocyte infusion during the neutropenic phase, is essential for long-term survival. Additional interferon-α was administered when no acute graft-versus-host-disease occurred within 3 weeks after donor-lymphocyte infusion. Overall, 44 patients with relapsed acute myeloid leukemia were assessed; 26 had relapsed after myeloablative conditioning and 18 after reduced-intensity conditioning. Of these 44 patients, seven were not eligible for cytoreductive treatment because of poor performance status (n=3) or severe graft-versus-host-disease (n=4) at the time of relapse. Patients with smoldering relapses (n=5) received donor-lymphocyte infusion only. Thirty-two patients received cytoreductive treatment, followed by donor-lymphocyte infusion in 22 patients. Reasons for not receiving donor-lymphocyte infusion were chemotherapy-related death (n=1) and chemotherapy-refractory disease (n=9). The 2-year overall survival rate after donor-lymphocyte infusion was 36% (95% confidence-interval: 16-57%). The impact of acute graft-versus-host-disease on survival was calculated with a Cox-regression model including onset of acute graft-versus-host-disease as a time-dependent variable. Development of grade 1-3, but not grade 4, acute graft-versus-host-disease was associated with superior survival as compared to absence of graft-versus-host-disease (hazard ratio 0.22, P=0.03). In conclusion, efficient cytoreduction followed by donor-lymphocyte infusion and subsequent interferon-α leading to limited acute graft-versus-host-disease represents a potentially curative option for patients with relapsed acute myeloid leukemia after allogeneic transplantation.


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