Allogeneic cell therapy for relapsed leukemia after bone marrow transplantation with donor peripheral blood lymphocytes

S. Slavin, E. Naparstek, A. Nagler, A. Ackerstein, J. Kapelushnik, R. Or

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207 Scopus citations


Allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is the treatment of choice for hematologic malignancies resistant to conventional chemotherapy and for patients who are at high risk for relapse. Until recently, no cure could be offered to patients relapsing following allogeneic BMT. We present our long-term observations of the first patient with remission reinduced by allogeneic cell therapy (allo-CT) using donor peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL). In addition, we review the cumulative international experience with allo-CT used to treat 163 patients, 105 with CML and 58 with other hematologic diseases, who relapsed following allogeneic BMT. The first patient treated by allo-CT was diagnosed with acute resistant pre-B lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in extensive third hematologic and extramedullary relapse shortly after BMT. He was given infusions of donor (sister) PBL in multiple increments. Subsequently, he developed mild, reversible graft-vs.-host disease (GVHD) in parallel with regression of all hematologic and cytogenetic disease manifestations. More than 8 years after allo-CT, he is disease-free with Karnofsky score 100% and no evidence of residual male cells by PCR. International data show that relapse after BMT was successfully reversed by donor PBL treatment in 97 of 158 evaluable patients; 72/100 (72%) with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and 25/58 (44.8%) with other malignant hematologic diseases including acute leukemia, lymphoma, and myelodysplastic syndrome. T cell depletion (TCD) for prevention of GVHD was performed for 60/105 (57%) patients with CML and 31/58 (53.4%) patients with other hematologic malignancies. Complete response after allo-CT was obtained in recipients of both TCD-BMT and unmodified BMT. GVHD due to allo-CT developed in 86/158 (54.4%) of the patients, 63/100 (63.0%) with CML and 23/58 (39.6%) with other hematologic diseases. α-interferon (IFN-α) was given to 67.9% of patients with CML and 28.1% of patients with other diseases. The cumulative experience shows that allo-CT can successfully reverse chemoradiotherapy-resistant relapse of acute leukemia and even more effectively of chronic leukemia independently of α-interferon therapy. Although GVHD was frequent among responders, accompanied occasionally by transient or irreversible marrow aplasia, remissions were also obtained in patients with no GVHD. Allo-CT should therefore be considered as treatment of choice for overt relapse or de novo minimal residual disease post-BMT. Administration of donor peripheral blood lymphocytes in graded increments at an early stage of relapse may be the best approach for combining optimal timing at the stage of minimal disease while controlling and minimizing the risk of GVHD on an individual basis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1553-1562
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Hematology
Issue number14
StatePublished - 1 Dec 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute leukemia
  • Allogeneic cell therapy
  • Bone marrow transplantation
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia
  • Immunotherapy
  • T cell depletion
  • rhIL-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Hematology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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