Infusion of cytotoxic T lymphocytes for the treatment of viral infections in hematopoetic stem cell transplant patients

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Purpose of review

Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation has proven curative for a range of malignant and nonmalignant disorders. However, the clinical success of this therapy is marred by the morbidity associated with viral infections, which are frequent (cytomegalovirus 15.6–28%, adenovirus 3–21%, BK virus 18.5–20.7%) post-transplant. These infections occur as a consequence of transplant conditioning regimens designed to eliminate not only malignant cells but also host immune cells that might interfere with stem cell engraftment. The result is a transient period of immune compromise when hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients are at risk of infectious complications associated with both latent (cytomegalovirus, Epstein–Barr virus, BK virus, human herpes virus 6, herpes simplex virus, varicella-zoster virus) and community-acquired viruses including adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, and parainfluenza virus.

Recent findings

Current standard of care for many of these infections involves pharmacologic agents, which are often ineffective and associated with side effects including nephrotoxicity and hepatotoxicity. Ultimately, because these agents do not address the underlying immune compromise, viral rebound often occurs. Thus, a number of groups have explored the clinical potential of adoptively transferred virus-specific T cells (VSTs) as an approach to prevent/treat virus-associated complications.


The current review will highlight recent publications showcasing VST manufacturing technologies and clinical experience with such cells.

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