Long-term outcome of mixed chimerism after stem cell transplantation for thalassemia major conditioned with busulfan and cyclophosphamide

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Mixed chimerism (MC) occurs frequently after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) for thalassemia major (TM) and may be associated with rejection. We report the outcome of MC in 132 TM patients conditioned with Busulphan/Cyclophosphamide, who had successful engraftment and had ≥ 1 year follow-up. Chimerism was first assessed at day +28, then every 3-9 months or more frequently if there was MC. If rejection was suspected, immunosuppression was stopped and donor-lymphocyte infusion (DLI) was given if there was no response. Among 132 patients, aged 7 years (range: 2-24), 46/132 (34.8%) had MC in the first year, 32/46 (69.6%) at day +28 and another 14 (30%) between day +28 and 1 year post HSCT. MC was quantified at level 1 (residual host chimerism (RHC) < 10%) in 20 (43.5%), level II (RHC 10-25%) in 14 (30.4%) and level III (RHC > 25%) in 12 (26.1%). On tapering immunosuppression, 15 (32.6%) developed acute GvHD and 8 (17.4%) had chronic GvHD with reversal to complete chimerism (CC). DLI was administered to 5/46 (10.9%), 1 evolved to CC but 4 rejected the graft. At median follow-up of 60 months (range: 16-172), 20/46 (43.5%) had CC, 18/46 (39.1%) had persistent MC with hemoglobin of 11.5 g/dL (range: 8.4-13.6), whereas 8 (17.4%) rejected the graft. Close monitoring and early intervention is needed with increasing recipient chimerism. Novel strategies are required for preventing graft rejection.

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