Overcoming graft rejection in heavily transfused and allo-immunised patients with bone marrow failure syndromes using fludarabine-based haematopoietic cell transplantation

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Allogeneic haematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) can cure a variety of non-malignant haematological disorders. Although transplant outcomes for selected patients with severe aplastic anaemia (SAA) and paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH) have improved, older age, allo-immunisation from transfusions, prior immunosuppressive therapy and a prolonged time from diagnosis to transplantation are associated with worse outcome. Because of its potent immunosuppressive effects, we investigated a fludarabine-based non-myeloablative conditioning regimen in patients with transfusion-dependent non-malignant haematological disorders at increased risk for graft rejection with conventional transplant conditioning. Twenty-six patients with transfusion dependent/anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG)-refractory SAA, PNH or pure red cell aplasia underwent HCT from a human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-compatible relative. Transplant conditioning consisted of cyclophosphamide (120 mg/kg) and fludarabine (125 mg/m2) with or without ATG. Ciclosporine, alone or combined with mycophenolate mofetil or methotrexate, was used as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) prophylaxis. All patients achieved durable engraftment and transfusion-independence. Twenty-four of 26 patients are alive at a median of 21 months following transplantation. Although a high cumulative incidence of acute (65% grades II–IV, 54% grades III–IV) and chronic GVHD (56%) was observed, only one patient died from transplant-related causes (cumulative incidence 7%). These data show that HCT following fludarabine-based non-myeloablative conditioning results in durable engraftment and excellent survival in SAA and PNH patients at high risk for graft rejection.

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