Publications by authors named "Peter Dreger"

221 Publications

Autologous culture model of nodal B-cell lymphoma identifies ex vivo determinants of response to bispecific antibodies.

Blood Adv 2021 Sep 29. Epub 2021 Sep 29.

University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Bispecific antibodies (BsAb) can induce long-term responses in refractory and relapsed B cell lymphoma patients. Nevertheless, response rates across patients are heterogenous and the factors determining quality and duration of responses are poorly understood. In order to identify key determinants of response to BsAb, we established a primary, autologous culture model allowing us to mimic treatment with CD3xCD19 and CD3xCD20 BsAb within the lymph node microenvironment ex vivo. T cell-mediated killing of lymphoma cells and proliferation of T cells varied significantly among patients but highly correlated between BsAb targeting CD20 or CD19. Ex vivo response to BsAb was significantly associated with expansion of T cells and secretion of effector molecules, such as granzyme B and perforin, but not with expression of T cell exhaustion (e.g. PD1, TIM3) or activation markers (e.g. CD25, CD69) or formation of intercellular contacts. In addition, we identified a distinct phenotype of regulatory T cells that was linked to ex vivo response independently from T cell frequency at baseline. High expression levels of Aiolos (IKZF1), ICOS and CXCR5 were positively associated with ex vivo response, whereas strong expression of Helios (IKZF2) had unfavorable impact on ex vivo response to BsAb. Furthermore, we demonstrated that lenalidomide, nivolumab and atezolizumab improved ex vivo response to BsAb by potentiating T cell effector functions. In summary, our ex vivo study identifies a distinct regulatory T cell phenotype as potential contributor to treatment failure of BsAb, and suggests drug combinations of high clinical relevance that could improve the efficacy of BsAb.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/bloodadvances.2021005400DOI Listing
September 2021

Fatal late-onset CAR T-cell-mediated encephalitis after axicabtagene-ciloleucel in a patient with large B-cell lymphoma.

Blood Adv 2021 Oct;5(19):3789-3793

Department of Internal Medicine V, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Treatment with CD19-directed (CAR) T cells has evolved as a standard of care for multiply relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma (r/r LBCL). A common side effect of this treatment is the immune effector cell-associated neurotoxicity syndrome (ICANS). Severe ICANS can occur in up to 30% to 40% of patients treated with axicabtagene-ciloleucel (axi-cel), usually within the first 4 weeks after administration of the dose and usually responding well to steroids. We describe a case of progressive central neurotoxicity occurring 9 months after axi-cel infusion in a patient with r/r LBCL who had undergone a prior allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplant. Despite extensive systemic and intrathecal immunosuppression, neurological deterioration was inexorable and eventually fatal within 5 months. High CAR T-cell DNA copy numbers and elevated levels of interleukin-1 (IL-1) and IL-6 were found in the cerebral spinal fluid as clinical symptoms emerged, and CAR T-cell brain infiltration was observed on autopsy, suggesting that CAR T cells played a major pathogenetic role. This case of unexpected, devastating, late neurotoxicity warrants intensified investigation of neurological off-target effects of CD19-directed CAR T cells and highlights the need for continuous monitoring for late toxicities in this vulnerable patient population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/bloodadvances.2021004889DOI Listing
October 2021

American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, Center of International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, and European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation Clinical Practice Recommendations for Transplantation and Cellular Therapies in Mantle Cell Lymphoma.

Transplant Cell Ther 2021 09;27(9):720-728

Section of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Autologous (auto-) and allogeneic (allo-) hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) are accepted treatment modalities in contemporary treatment algorithms for mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy recently received approval for MCL; however, its exact place and sequence in relation to HCT remain unclear. The American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, Center of International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, and the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation jointly convened an expert panel to formulate consensus recommendations for role, timing, and sequencing of auto-HCT, allo-HCT, and CAR T cell therapy for patients with newly diagnosed and relapsed/refractory (R/R) MCL. The RAND-modified Delphi method was used to generate consensus statements. Seventeen consensus statements were generated, with a few key statements as follows: in the first line setting, auto-HCT consolidation represents standard of care in eligible patients, whereas there is no clear role of allo-HCT or CAR T cell therapy outside of clinical trials. In the R/R setting, the preferential option is CAR T cell therapy, especially in patients with MCL failing or intolerant to at least one Bruton's tyrosine kinase inhibitor, while allo-HCT is recommended if CAR T cell therapy fails or is infeasible. Several recommendations were based on expert opinion, where the panel developed consensus statements for important real-world clinical scenarios to guide clinical practice. In the absence of contemporary evidence-based data, the panel found RAND-modified Delphi methodology effective in providing a formal framework for developing consensus recommendations for the timing and sequence of cellular therapies for MCL.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jtct.2021.03.001DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8447221PMC
September 2021

ASTCT, CIBMTR, and EBMT clinical practice recommendations for transplant and cellular therapies in mantle cell lymphoma.

Bone Marrow Transplant 2021 Aug 20. Epub 2021 Aug 20.

Section of Hematology/Oncology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.

Autologous (auto-) or allogeneic (allo-) hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) are accepted treatment modalities for mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). Recently, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy received approval for MCL; however, its exact place and sequence in relation to HCT is unclear. The ASTCT, CIBMTR, and the EBMT, jointly convened an expert panel to formulate consensus recommendations for role, timing, and sequencing of auto-, allo-HCT, and CAR T-cell therapy for patients with newly diagnosed and relapsed/refractory (R/R) MCL. The RAND-modified Delphi method was used to generate consensus statements. Seventeen consensus statements were generated; in the first-line setting auto-HCT consolidation represents standard-of-care in eligible patients, whereas there is no clear role of allo-HCT or CAR T-cell therapy, outside of a clinical trial. In the R/R setting, the preferential option is CAR T-cell therapy especially in MCL failing or intolerant to at least one Bruton's tyrosine kinase inhibitor, while allo-HCT is recommended if CAR T-cell therapy has failed or is not feasible. In the absence of contemporary evidence-based data, the panel found RAND-modified Delphi methodology effective in providing a formal framework for developing consensus recommendations for the timing and sequence of cellular therapies for MCL.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41409-021-01288-9DOI Listing
August 2021

Is There a Role for Cellular Therapy in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?

Authors:
Peter Dreger

Cancer J 2021 Jul-Aug 01;27(4):297-305

From the Department Medicine V, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Abstract: Despite multiple advances in the treatment landscape of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) during recent years, cellular therapies, such as allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation and chimeric antigen-engineered T cells, represent valuable therapeutic options for patients with multiply relapsed or poor-risk disease. This brief overview will summarize current results of cellular therapies in CLL including Richter transformation, suggest an indication algorithm and strategies for performing cellular therapies in these conditions, and discuss the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) on allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation and chimeric antigen-engineered T cells in CLL.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/PPO.0000000000000532DOI Listing
August 2021

Endothelial cell dysfunction: a key determinant for the outcome of allogeneic stem cell transplantation.

Bone Marrow Transplant 2021 10 12;56(10):2326-2335. Epub 2021 Jul 12.

Department Medicine V, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) carries the promise of cure for many malignant and non-malignant diseases of the lympho-hematopoietic system. Although outcome has improved considerably since the pioneering Seattle achievements more than 5 decades ago, non-relapse mortality (NRM) remains a major burden of alloSCT. There is increasing evidence that endothelial dysfunction is involved in many of the life-threatening complications of alloSCT, such as sinusoidal obstruction syndrome/venoocclusive disease, transplant-associated thrombotic microangiopathy, and refractory acute graft-versus host disease. This review delineates the role of the endothelium in severe complications after alloSCT and describes the current status of search for biomarkers predicting endothelial complications, including markers of endothelial vulnerability and markers of endothelial injury. Finally, implications of our current understanding of transplant-associated endothelial pathology for prevention and management of complications after alloSCT are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41409-021-01390-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8273852PMC
October 2021

EASIX for Prediction of Outcome in Hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 Infected Patients.

Front Immunol 2021;12:634416. Epub 2021 Jun 23.

Department of Internal Medicine IV, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and has evoked a pandemic that challenges public health-care systems worldwide. Endothelial cell dysfunction plays a key role in pathophysiology, and simple prognosticators may help to optimize allocation of limited resources. Endothelial activation and stress index (EASIX) is a validated predictor of endothelial complications and outcome after allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Aim of this study was to test if EASIX could predict life-threatening complications in patients with COVID-19.

Methods: SARS-CoV-2-positive, hospitalized patients were enrolled onto a prospective non-interventional register study (n=100). Biomarkers were assessed at hospital admission. Primary endpoint was severe course of disease (mechanical ventilation and/or death, V/D). Results were validated in 126 patients treated in two independent institutions.

Results: EASIX at admission was a strong predictor of severe course of the disease (odds ratio for a two-fold change 3.4, 95%CI 1.8-6.3, p<0.001), time to V/D (hazard ratio (HR) for a two-fold change 2.0, 95%CI 1.5-2.6, p<0.001) as well as survival (HR for a two-fold change 1.7, 95%CI 1.2-2.5, p=0.006). The effect was retained in multivariable analysis adjusting for age, gender, and comorbidities and could be validated in the independent cohort. At hospital admission EASIX correlated with increased suppressor of tumorigenicity-2, soluble thrombomodulin, angiopoietin-2, CXCL8, CXCL9 and interleukin-18, but not interferon-alpha.

Conclusion: EASIX is a validated predictor of COVID19 outcome and an easy-to-access tool to segregate patients in need for intensive surveillance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.634416DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8261154PMC
August 2021

Polatuzumab vedotin as a salvage and bridging treatment in relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphomas.

Blood Adv 2021 07;5(13):2707-2716

Department of Hematology and Oncology, Klinikum Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany.

The antibody-drug conjugate polatuzumab vedotin (pola) has recently been approved in combination with bendamustine and rituximab (pola-BR) for patients with refractory or relapsed (r/r) large B-cell lymphoma (LBCL). To investigate the efficacy of pola-BR in a real-world setting, we retrospectively analyzed 105 patients with LBCL who were treated in 26 German centers under the national compassionate use program. Fifty-four patients received pola as a salvage treatment and 51 patients were treated with pola with the intention to bridge to chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy (n = 41) or allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (n = 10). Notably, patients in the salvage and bridging cohort had received a median of 3 prior treatment lines. In the salvage cohort, the best overall response rate was 48.1%. The 6-month progression-free survival and overall survival (OS) was 27.7% and 49.6%, respectively. In the bridging cohort, 51.2% of patients could be successfully bridged with pola to the intended CAR T-cell therapy. The combination of pola bridging and successful CAR T-cell therapy resulted in a 6-month OS of 77.9% calculated from pola initiation. Pola vedotin-rituximab without a chemotherapy backbone demonstrated encouraging overall response rates up to 40%, highlighting both an appropriate alternative for patients unsuitable for chemotherapy and a new treatment option for bridging before leukapheresis in patients intended for CAR T-cell therapy. Furthermore, 7 of 12 patients with previous failure of CAR T-cell therapy responded to a pola-containing regimen. These findings suggest that pola may serve as effective salvage and bridging treatment of r/r LBCL patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/bloodadvances.2020004155DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8288676PMC
July 2021

Dual Effects of Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors in Combination With CD19.CAR-T Cell Immunotherapy.

Front Immunol 2021 26;12:670088. Epub 2021 May 26.

Department of Internal Medicine V, University Clinic Heidelberg, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany.

Chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cells targeting CD19 came into clinical practice for the treatment of B cell lymphoma in 2018. However, patients being treated for B cell lymphoma often suffer from comorbidities such as chronic pain, cardiovascular diseases and arthritis. Thus, these patients frequently receive concomitant medications that include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitors. Celecoxib, a selective COX-2 inhibitor, and aspirin, a non-selective COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitor, are being used as anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-pyretic drugs. In addition, several studies have also focused on the anti-neoplastic properties of COX-inhibitors. As the influence of COX-inhibitors on CD19.CAR-T cells is still unknown, we investigated the effect of celecoxib and aspirin on the quantity and quality of CD19.CAR-T cells at different concentrations with special regard to cytotoxicity, activation, cytokine release, proliferation and exhaustion. A significant effect on CAR-T cells could be observed for 0.1 mmol/L of celecoxib and for 4 mmol/L of aspirin. At these concentrations, we found that both COX-inhibitors could induce intrinsic apoptosis of CD19.CAR-T cells showing a significant reduction in the ratio of JC-10 red to JC-10 green CAR-T cells from 6.46 ± 7.03 (mean ± SD) to 1.76 ± 0.67 by celecoxib and to 4.41 ± 0.32 by aspirin, respectively. Additionally, the ratios of JC-10 red to JC-10 green Daudi cells were also decreased from 3.41 ± 0.30 to 0.77 ± 0.06 by celecoxib and to 1.26 ± 0.04 by aspirin, respectively. Although the cytokine release by CD19.CAR-T cells upon activation was not hampered by both COX-inhibitors, activation and proliferation of CAR-T cells were significantly inhibited diminishing the NF-ĸB signaling pathway by a significant down-regulation of expression of CD27 on CD4 and CD8 CAR-T cells, followed by a clear decrease of phosphorylated NF-ĸB p65 in both CD4 and CD8 CAR-T cells by a factor of 1.8. Of note, COX-inhibitors hampered expansion and induced exhaustion of CAR-T cells in an antigen stress assay. Collectively, our findings indicate that the use of COX-inhibitors is a double-edged sword that not only induces apoptosis in tumor cells but also impairs the quantity and quality of CAR-T cells. Therefore, COX-inhibitors should be used with caution in patients with B cell lymphoma under CAR-T cell therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.670088DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8189155PMC
October 2021

Allogeneic stem cell transplant in non-Hodgkin lymphomas: Still an indication?

Authors:
Peter Dreger

Hematol Oncol 2021 Jun;39 Suppl 1:100-103

Department of Medicine V, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (alloHCT) used to play a defined role in the treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). With the advent of modern targeted molecular therapies and immunotherapies, treatment standards at least for B-cell lymphoma have undergone significant changes, thereby questioning the traditional role of alloHCT in these diseases. This paper attempts to describe the current place and the perspectives of alloHCT in the rapidly evolving treatment landscape of NHL.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hon.2845DOI Listing
June 2021

Infection Complications after Lymphodepletion and Dosing of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T (CAR-T) Cell Therapy in Patients with Relapsed/Refractory Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or B Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Apr 2;13(7). Epub 2021 Apr 2.

Department of Internal Medicine V-Hematology, Oncology & Rheumatology, University Hospital Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.

Chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell therapy has proven to be very effective in patients with relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). However, infections-related either due to lymphodepletion or the CAR-T cell therapy itself-can result in severe and potentially life-threatening complications, while side effects such as cytokine release syndrome (CRS) might complicate differential diagnosis. Sixty-seven dosings of CAR-T cells in sixty adult patients with NHL (85%) and ALL (15%) receiving CAR-T cell therapy were assessed for infectious complications. Almost two-thirds of patients (61%) developed fever following lymphodepletion and CAR-T cell dosing. Microbiological or radiological findings were observed in 25% of all cases (bacterial 12%, viral 5%, fungal 8%). Inpatient infections were associated with more lines of therapy and more severe CRS. However, overall serious complications were rare after CAR-T therapy, with one patient dying of infection. Pathogen detection after inpatient stay was infrequent and mostly occurred in the first 90 days after dosing. Infections in CAR-T cell treated patents are common. Fast and suitable identification and treatment are crucial in these heavily pretreated and immunocompromised patients. In most cases infectious complications are manageable. Nonetheless, standardized anti-infective prophylaxis and supportive therapy are mandatory to reduce morbidity and mortality in CAR-T cell therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13071684DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8038233PMC
April 2021

Polymorphisms in CXCR3 ligands predict early CXCL9 recovery and severe chronic GVHD.

Blood Cancer J 2021 02 27;11(2):42. Epub 2021 Feb 27.

Department of Medicine V, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) is a major cause of mortality and morbidity after allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT). The individual risk of severe cGVHD remains difficult to predict and may involve CXCR3 ligands. This study investigated the role of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of CXCL4, CXCL9, CXCL10, and CXCL11, and their day +28 serum levels, in cGVHD pathogenesis. Eighteen CXCR3 and CXCL4, CXCL9-11 SNPs as well as peri-transplant CXCL9-11 serum levels were analyzed in 688 patients without (training cohort; n = 287) or with statin-based endothelial protection cohort (n = 401). Clinical outcomes were correlated to serum levels and SNP status. Significant polymorphisms were further analyzed by luciferase reporter assays. Findings were validated in an independent cohort (n = 202). A combined genetic risk comprising four CXCR3 ligand SNPs was significantly associated with increased risk of severe cGVHD in both training cohort (hazard ratio (HR) 2.48, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.33-4.64, P = 0.004) and validation cohort (HR 2.95, 95% CI 1.56-5.58, P = 0.001). In reporter assays, significantly reduced suppressive effects of calcineurin inhibitors in constructs with variant alleles of rs884304 (P < 0.001) and rs884004 (P < 0.001) were observed. CXCL9 serum levels at day +28 after alloSCT correlated with both genetic risk and risk of severe cGVHD (HR 1.38, 95% CI 1.10-1.73, P = 0.006). This study identifies patients with high genetic risk to develop severe cGVHD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41408-021-00434-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7914250PMC
February 2021

Early bilirubinemia after allogeneic stem cell transplantation-an endothelial complication.

Bone Marrow Transplant 2021 07 30;56(7):1573-1583. Epub 2021 Jan 30.

Department of Medicine V, Hematology, Oncology and Rheumatology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Hyperbilirubinemia occurs frequently after allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Causes include primary liver damage and endothelial complications as major contributors. Here, we have investigated the impact of early bilirubinemia (EB) on posttransplant outcomes. Maximum total bilirubin levels (days 0-28) were categorized using maximally selected log rank statistics to identify a cut off for the endpoint non-relapse mortality (NRM) in a training cohort of 873 patients. EB above this cut off was correlated with NRM and overall survival (OS) and with pre- and posttransplant Angiopoietin-2, interleukin (IL)18, CXCL8 and suppressor of tumorigenicity-2 (ST2) serum levels, and the endothelial activation and stress index (EASIX). Clinical correlations were validated in a sample of 388 patients transplanted in an independent institution. The EB cut off was determined at 3.6 mg/dL (61.6 µM). EB predicted OS (HR 1.60, 95% CI 1.21-2.12, p < 0.001), and NRM (CSHR 2.14; 1.28-3.56, p = 0.004), also independent of typical endothelial complications such as veno-occlusive disease, refractory acute graft-versus-host disease, or transplant-associated microangiopathy. However, EB correlated with high Angiopoietin-2, EASIX-pre and EASIX-day 0, as well as increased levels of posttransplant CXCL8, IL18, and ST2. In summary, EB indicates a poor prognosis. The association of EB with endothelial biomarkers suggests an endothelial pathomechanism also for this posttransplant complication.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41409-020-01186-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8263345PMC
July 2021

A randomized phase 3 trial of autologous vs allogeneic transplantation as part of first-line therapy in poor-risk peripheral T-NHL.

Blood 2021 May;137(19):2646-2656

Service d'Hematologie Clinique, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, Hôpital Robert Debre, Reims, France.

First-line therapy for younger patients with peripheral T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (T-NHL) consists of 6 courses of cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone (CHOP) with or without etoposide (CHOEP), consolidated by high-dose therapy and autologous stem cell transplantation (auto-SCT). We hypothesized that allogeneic stem cell transplantation (allo-SCT) could improve outcomes. 104 patients with peripheral T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, except ALK+ anaplastic large cell lymphoma, 18 to 60 years, all stages, and all age adjusted International Prognostic Index scores, except 0 and stage I, were randomized to 4 cycles of CHOEP and 1 cycle of dexamethasone, cytosine-arabinoside, and platinum (DHAP) followed by high-dose therapy and auto-SCT or myeloablative conditioning and allo-SCT. The primary end point was event-free survival (EFS) at 3 years. After a median follow-up of 42 months, the 3-year EFS after allo-SCT was 43%, as compared with 38% after auto-SCT. Overall survival at 3 years was 57% vs 70% after allo- or auto-SCT, without significant differences between treatment arms. None of the 21 responding patients proceeding to allo-SCT relapsed, as opposed to 13 of 36 patients (36%) proceeding to auto-SCT. Eight of 26 patients (31%) and none of 41 patients died of transplant-related toxicity after allo- and auto-SCT, respectively. The strong graft-versus-lymphoma effect after allo-SCT was counterbalanced by transplant-related mortality. This trial is registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT00984412.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood.2020008825DOI Listing
May 2021

Pre-sensitization of Malignant B Cells Through Venetoclax Significantly Improves the Cytotoxic Efficacy of CD19.CAR-T Cells.

Front Immunol 2020 9;11:608167. Epub 2020 Dec 9.

Department of Internal Medicine V, University Clinic Heidelberg, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy has shown promising responses in patients with refractory or relapsed aggressive B-cell malignancies that are resistant to conventional chemotherapy or stem cell transplantation. A potentially combinatorial therapeutic strategy may be the inhibition of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins, overexpressed in most cancer cells. In this study we investigated the combination of 3rd-generation CD19.CAR-T cells and the BH3 mimetics venetoclax, a Bcl-2 inhibitor, or S63845, a Mcl-1 inhibitor, under three different treatment conditions: pre-sensitization of cancer cells with BH3 mimetics followed by CAR-T cell treatment, simultaneous combination therapy, and the administration of BH3 mimetics after CAR-T cell treatment. Our results showed that administration of CAR-T cells and BH3 mimetics had a significant effect on the quantity and quality of CD19.CAR-T cells. The administration of BH3 mimetics prior to CAR-T cell therapy exerted an enhanced cytotoxic efficacy by upregulating the CD19 expression and pro-apoptotic proteins in highly sensitive tumor cells, and thereby improving both CD19.CAR-T cell cytotoxicity and persistence. In simultaneous and post-treatment approaches, however, the quantity of CAR-T cells was adversely affected. Our findings indicate pre-sensitization of highly sensitive tumor cells with BH3 mimetics could enhance the cytotoxic efficacy of CAR-T cell treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.608167DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7756123PMC
June 2021

CAR T cells or allogeneic transplantation as standard of care for advanced large B-cell lymphoma: an intent-to-treat comparison.

Blood Adv 2020 12;4(24):6157-6168

Department of Medicine V, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany; and.

CD19-directed chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell treatment has evolved as standard of care (SOC) for multiply relapsed/refractory (R/R) large B-cell lymphoma (LBCL). However, its potential benefit over allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (alloHCT) remains unclear. We compared outcomes with both types of cellular immunotherapy (CI) by intention to treat (ITT). Eligble were all patients with R/R LBCL and institutional tumor board decision recommending SOC CAR T-cell treatment between July 2018 and February 2020, or alloHCT between January 2004 and February 2020. Primary end point was overall survival (OS) from indication. Altogether, 41 and 60 patients for whom CAR T cells and alloHCT were intended, respectively, were included. In both cohorts, virtually all patients had active disease at indication. CI was recommended as part of second-line therapy for 21 alloHCT patients but no CAR T-cell patients. Median OS from indication was 475 days with CAR T cells vs 285 days with alloHCT (P = .88) and 222 days for 39 patients for whom alloHCT beyond second line was recommended (P = .08). Of CAR T-cell and alloHCT patients, 73% and 65%, respectively, proceeded to CI. After CI, 12-month estimates for nonrelapse mortality, relapse incidence, progression-free survival, and OS for CAR T cells vs alloHCT were 3% vs 21% (P = .04), 59% vs 44% (P = .12), 39% vs 33% (P = .97), and 68% vs 54% (P = .32), respectively. In conclusion, CAR T-cell outcomes were not inferior to alloHCT outcomes, whether measured by ITT or from CI administration, supporting strategies preferring CAR T cells over alloHCT as first CI for multiply R/R LBCL.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/bloodadvances.2020003036DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7756983PMC
December 2020

Clinical Response to the CD95-Ligand Inhibitor Asunercept Is Defined by a Pro-Inflammatory Serum Cytokine Profile.

Cancers (Basel) 2020 Dec 8;12(12). Epub 2020 Dec 8.

Department of Internal Medicine V, University Hospital Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.

Asunercept (APG101) is a well-tolerated CD95-ligand inhibitor that showed promising efficacy in a prospective, single-arm phase I study in anemic, transfusion-dependent patients with low and intermediate risk myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). In this retrospective post hoc analysis, serum levels of biomarkers were measured in study patients focusing on cytokines associated with erythropoiesis, inflammation, apoptosis, bone marrow fibrosis, and inflammasome activity. Baseline serum biomarkers were correlated with treatment response, in order to propose a hypothetical responder serum profile. After an updated median follow-up of 54 months (range 7-65), response to asunercept was associated with improved overall survival (at 3-years: 67% [95%CI 36-97] versus 13% [95%CI 0-36] in responders versus non-responders, respectively). Higher baseline values of interleukin-18 (IL-18), S100 calcium-binding protein A9 (S100A9) and soluble p53 were predictive of non-response to asunercept (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve 0.79-0.82). Furthermore, non-responding patients showed a distinct, pro-inflammatory serum cytokine profile which was persistent throughout the first half of the treatment phase and appeared unaffected by asunercept. Although prospective validation is required, our post hoc analysis suggests that serum cytokine profiling based on IL-18, S100A9 and soluble p53 may represent an approach to identify and select low-risk MDS patients most likely to benefit from asunercept treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers12123683DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7764464PMC
December 2020

Letermovir prophylaxis is effective in preventing cytomegalovirus reactivation after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation: single-center real-world data.

Ann Hematol 2021 Aug 3;100(8):2087-2093. Epub 2020 Dec 3.

Department of Internal Medicine V (Hematology/Oncology/Rheumatology), Heidelberg University Hospital, Im Neuenheimer Feld 410, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany.

Morbidity and mortality after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (alloHCT) are still essentially affected by reactivation of cytomegalovirus (CMV). We evaluated 80 seropositive patients transplanted consecutively between March 2018 and March 2019 who received letermovir (LET) prophylaxis from engraftment until day +100 and retrospectively compared them with 80 patients without LET allografted between January 2017 and March 2018. The primary endpoint of this study was the cumulative incidence (CI) of clinically significant CMV infection (CS-CMVi) defined as CMV reactivation demanding preemptive treatment or CMV disease. With 14% CI of CS-CMVi at day +100 (11 events) was significantly lower in the LET cohort when compared to the control group (33 events, 41%; HR 0.29; p < 0.001). Whereas therapy with foscarnet could be completely avoided in the LET group, 7 out of 80 patients in the control cohort received foscarnet, resulting in 151 extra in-patient days for foscarnet administration (p = 0.002). One-year overall survival was 72% in the control arm vs 84% in the LET arm (HR 0.75 [95%CI 0.43-1.30]; p < 0.306). This study confirms efficacy and safety of LET for prophylaxis of CS-CMVi after alloHCT in a real-world setting, resulting in a significant patient benefit by reducing hospitalization needs and exposure to potentially toxic antiviral drugs for treatment of CMV reactivation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00277-020-04362-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8285358PMC
August 2021

Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation in adult soft-tissue sarcoma: an analysis from the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

ESMO Open 2020 10;5(5):e000860

Internal Medicine and Medical Therapy, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Pavia, Lombardia, Italy.

Background: The role of high-dose chemotherapy with autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT) in the treatment of soft-tissue sarcoma (STS) remains an unsettled issue. Prospective clinical trials failed to prove a benefit of the procedure but were limited by small and heterogeneous patient cohorts. Thus, it is unknown if ASCT may be a valuable treatment option in specific patient subgroups.

Methods: The purpose of this study was to investigate the value of ASCT according to histological subtype in STS patients who were registered in the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation database between 1996 and 2016.

Results: Median progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in the entire cohort of 338 patients were 8.3 and 19.8 months, respectively, and PFS and OS at 5 years were 13% and 25%, respectively. Analysis of outcomes in different subgroups showed that younger age, better remission status before transplantation and melphalan-based preparative regimen were predictive of benefit from ASCT, whereas histology and grading had no statistically significant impact.

Conclusions: Outcomes after ASCT compared favorably to those of recent trials on conventional chemotherapies and targeted therapies in STS, including histology-tailored approaches. ASCT, thus, should be reinvestigated in clinical trials focusing on defined patient subgroups.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/esmoopen-2020-000860DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7590345PMC
October 2020

Evaluation of six different types of sequential conditioning regimens for allogeneic stem cell transplantation in relapsed/refractory acute myelogenous leukemia - a study of the Acute Leukemia Working Party of the EBMT.

Leuk Lymphoma 2021 02 11;62(2):399-409. Epub 2020 Oct 11.

Department of Hematology and Cell Therapy, Hopital Saint-Antoine, Paris, France.

The Acute Leukemia Working Party (ALWP) of the EBMT assessed the outcome of allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) in patients with relapsed/refractory AML (r/rAML) evaluating six sequential conditioning regimens (SR) groups. A total of 2132 patients were included. LFS at 2 years was 28.9%, 33.6%, 35.3%, 20.6%, 24.4%, and 27% for the FLAMSA-TBI4, FLAMSA-Chemo, Mel-Flu-TBI8, Mel-Treo-Flu, Thio-ETO-Cy-Bu2-Flu, and Clo-ARAC-(Bu2/TBI4)-Cy groups, respectively. In patients <55 years of age Mel-Flu-TBI8 had the best LFS, which was statistically significant only in comparison to the Mel-Treo-Flu group, while in patients ≥55 years LFS was best with FLAMSA-Chemo without significant differences compared to FLAMSA-TBI4 and Mel-Flu-TBI8. Furthermore, best NRM rates were obtained with the two FLAMSA regimens groups. Our study suggests that in younger (<55 years) patients a more intense regimen might be used whereas in older (≥55 years) patients the focus might be more on tolerability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10428194.2020.1827248DOI Listing
February 2021

A Randomized Open label Phase-II Clinical Trial with or without Infusion of Plasma from Subjects after Convalescence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in High-Risk Patients with Confirmed Severe SARS-CoV-2 Disease (RECOVER): A structured summary of a study protocol for a randomised controlled trial.

Trials 2020 Oct 6;21(1):828. Epub 2020 Oct 6.

Department of Internal Medicine V, Heidelberg University Hospital, Heidelberg, Germany.

Objectives: Primary objectives • To assess the time from randomisation until an improvement within 84 days defined as two points on a seven point ordinal scale or live discharge from the hospital in high-risk patients (group 1 to group 4) with SARS-CoV-2 infection requiring hospital admission by infusion of plasma from subjects after convalescence of SARS-CoV-2 infection or standard of care. Secondary objectives • To assess overall survival, and the overall survival rate at 28 56 and 84 days. • To assess SARS-CoV-2 viral clearance and load as well as antibody titres. • To assess the percentage of patients that required mechanical ventilation. • To assess time from randomisation until discharge.

Trial Design: Randomised, open-label, multicenter phase II trial, designed to assess the clinical outcome of SARS-CoV-2 disease in high-risk patients (group 1 to group 4) following treatment with anti-SARS-CoV-2 convalescent plasma or standard of care.

Participants: High-risk patients >18 years of age hospitalized with SARS-CoV-2 infection in 10-15 university medical centres will be included. High-risk is defined as SARS-CoV-2 positive infection with Oxygen saturation at ≤ 94% at ambient air with additional risk features as categorised in 4 groups: • Group 1, pre-existing or concurrent hematological malignancy and/or active cancer therapy (incl. chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery) within the last 24 months or less. • Group 2, chronic immunosuppression not meeting the criteria of group 1. • Group 3, age ≥ 50 - 75 years meeting neither the criteria of group 1 nor group 2 and at least one of these criteria: Lymphopenia < 0.8 x G/l and/or D-dimer > 1μg/mL. • Group 4, age ≥ 75 years meeting neither the criteria of group 1 nor group 2. Observation time for all patients is expected to be at least 3 months after entry into the study. Patients receive convalescent plasma for two days (day 1 and day 2) or standard of care. For patients in the standard arm, cross over is allowed from day 10 in case of not improving or worsening clinical condition. Nose/throat swabs for determination of viral load are collected at day 0 and day 1 (before first CP administration) and subsequently at day 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 14, 28 or until discharge. Serum for SARS-Cov-2 diagnostic is collected at baseline and subsequently at day 3, 7, 14 and once during the follow-up period (between day 35 and day 84). There is a regular follow-up of 3 months. All discharged patients are followed by regular phone calls. All visits, time points and study assessments are summarized in the Trial Schedule (see full protocol Table 1). All participating trial sites will be supplied with study specific visit worksheets that list all assessments and procedures to be completed at each visit. All findings including clinical and laboratory data are documented by the investigator or an authorized member of the study team in the patient's medical record and in the electronic case report forms (eCRFs).

Intervention And Comparator: This trial will analyze the effects of convalescent plasma from recovered subjects with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in high-risk patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Patients at high risk for a poor outcome due to underlying disease, age or condition as listed above are eligible for enrollment. In addition, eligible patients have a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and O saturation ≤ 94% while breathing ambient air. Patients are randomised to receive (experimental arm) or not receive (standard arm) convalescent plasma in two bags (238 - 337 ml plasma each) from different donors (day 1, day 2). A cross over from the standard arm into the experimental arm is possible after day 10 in case of not improving or worsening clinical condition.

Main Outcomes: Primary endpoints: The main purpose of the study is to assess the time from randomisation until an improvement within 84 days defined as two points on a seven-point ordinal scale or live discharge from the hospital in high-risk patients (group 1 to group 4) with SARS-CoV-2 infection requiring hospital admission by infusion of plasma from subjects after convalescence of a SARS-CoV-2 infection or standard of care. Secondary endpoints: • Overall survival, defined as the time from randomisation until death from any cause 28-day, 56-day and 84-day overall survival rates. • SARS-CoV-2 viral clearance and load as well as antibody titres. • Requirement mechanical ventilation at any time during hospital stay (yes/no). • Time until discharge from randomisation. • Viral load, changes in antibody titers and cytokine profiles are analysed in an exploratory manner using paired non-parametric tests (before - after treatment).

Randomisation: Upon confirmation of eligibility (patients must meet all inclusion criteria and must not meet exclusion criteria described in section 5.3 and 5.4 of the full protocol), the clinical site must contact a centralized internet randomization system ( https://randomizer.at/ ). Patients are randomized using block randomisation to one of the two arms, experimental arm or standard arm, in a 1:1 ratio considering a stratification according to the 4 risk groups (see Participants).

Blinding (masking): The study is open-label, no blinding will be performed.

Numbers To Be Randomised (sample Size): A total number of 174 patients is required for the entire trial, n=87 per group.

Trial Status: Protocol version 1.2 dated 09/07/2020. A recruitment period of approximately 9 months and an overall study duration of approximately 12 months is anticipated. Recruitment of patients starts in the third quarter of 2020. The study duration of an individual patient is planned to be 3 months. After finishing all study-relevant procedures, therapy, and follow-up period, the patient is followed in terms of routine care and treated if necessary. Total trial duration: 18 months Duration of the clinical phase: 12 months First patient first visit (FPFV): 3 Quarter 2020 Last patient first visit (LPFV): 2 Quarter 2021 Last patient last visit (LPLV): 3 Quarter 2021 Trial Report completed: 4 Quarter 2021 TRIAL REGISTRATION: EudraCT Number: 2020-001632-10, https://www.clinicaltrialsregister.eu/ctr-search/trial/2020-001632-10/DE , registered on 04/04/2020.

Full Protocol: The full protocol is attached as an additional file, accessible from the Trials website (Additional file 1). In the interest in expediting dissemination of this material, the familiar formatting has been eliminated; this Letter serves as a summary of the key elements of the full protocol. The study protocol has been reported in accordance with the Standard Protocol Items: Recommendations for Clinical Interventional Trials (SPIRIT) guidelines (Additional file 2). The eCRF is attached (Additional file 3).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13063-020-04735-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7538058PMC
October 2020

Assessment of CAR T Cell Frequencies in Axicabtagene Ciloleucel and Tisagenlecleucel Patients Using Duplex Quantitative PCR.

Cancers (Basel) 2020 Sep 30;12(10). Epub 2020 Sep 30.

Department of Internal Medicine V (Hematology/Oncology/Rheumatology), University Hospital Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell (CART) therapy has been established as a treatment option for patients with CD19-positive lymphoid malignancies in both the refractory and the relapsed setting. Displaying significant responses in clinical trials, two second-generation CART products directed against CD19, axicabtagene ciloleucel (axi-cel) and tisagenlecleucel (tisa-cel), have been approved and integrated into the clinical routine. However, experimental assay for quantitative monitoring of both of these CART products in treated patients in the open domain are lacking. To address this issue, we established and validated a quantitative single copy gene (SCG)-based duplex (DP)-PCR assay (SCG-DP-PCR) to quantify CARTs based on the FMC63 single chain variable fragment (scFv), i.e., axi-cel and tisa-cel. This quantitative PCR (qPCR) approach operates without standard curves or calibrator samples, offers a tool to assess cellular kinetics of FMC63 CARTs and allows direct comparison of CART-copies in axi-cel versus tisa-cel patient samples. For treating physicians, SCG-DP-PCR is an important tool to monitor CARTs and guide clinical decisions regarding CART effects in respective patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers12102820DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7601213PMC
September 2020

Idelalisib treatment prior to allogeneic stem cell transplantation for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia: a report from the EBMT chronic malignancies working party.

Bone Marrow Transplant 2021 03 2;56(3):605-613. Epub 2020 Oct 2.

University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

No studies have been reported so far on bridging treatment with idelalisib for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) prior to allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (alloHCT). To study potential carry-over effects of idelalisib and to assess the impact of pathway-inhibitor (PI) failure we performed a retrospective EBMT registry-based study. Patients with CLL who had a history of idelalisib treatment and received a first alloHCT between 2015 and 2017 were eligible. Data on 72 patients (median age 58 years) were analyzed. Forty percent of patients had TP53 CLL and 64% had failed on at least one PI. No primary graft failure occurred. Cumulative incidences of acute GVHD °II-IV and chronic GVHD were 51% and 39%, respectively. Estimates for 2-year overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS), and cumulative incidences of relapse/progression (CIR) and non-relapse mortality NRM were 59%, 44%, 25%, and 31%. In univariate analysis, drug sensitivity was a strong risk factor. For patients who had failed neither PI treatment nor chemoimmunotherapy (CIT) the corresponding 2-year estimates were 73%, 65%, 15%, and 20%, respectively. In conclusion, idelalisib may be considered as an option for bridging therapy prior to alloHCT. Owing to the high risk for acute GVHD intensified clinical monitoring is warranted.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41409-020-01069-wDOI Listing
March 2021

Interleukin-18 and Hematopoietic Recovery after Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation.

Cancers (Basel) 2020 Sep 28;12(10). Epub 2020 Sep 28.

Department of Internal Medicine V, University Hospital Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.

Interleukin-18 (IL-18) is an immunoregulatory cytokine and a context-dependent regulator of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell (HSPC) quiescence in murine models. In a previous study, high pre-conditioning levels of IL-18 were associated with increased non-relapse mortality (NRM) after allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT). To investigate the clinical impact of IL-18 status on hematopoietic function, the associations of pre-conditioning and day 0-3 cytokine levels with platelet and neutrophil recovery were analyzed in a training cohort of 714 allografted patients. In adjusted logistic regression analyses, both increasing pre-conditioning and day 0-3 IL-18 levels had a significantly higher adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of delayed platelet and neutrophil recovery on day +28 post-transplant (aOR per two-fold increase: 1.6-2.0). The adverse impact of high pre-conditioning IL-18 on day +28 platelet recovery was verified in an independent cohort of 673 allografted patients (aOR per two-fold increase: 1.8 and 1.7 for total and free IL-18, respectively). In both cohorts, a platelet count ≤20/nL on day +28 was associated with a significantly increased hazard of NRM (hazard ratio 2.13 and 2.94, respectively). Our findings support the hypothesis that elevated peritransplant IL-18 levels affect post-transplant HSPC function and may provide a rationale to explore modulation of IL-18 for improving alloSCT outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers12102789DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7601738PMC
September 2020

Allogeneic stem cell transplantation for chronic lymphocytic leukemia in the era of novel agents.

Blood Adv 2020 08;4(16):3977-3989

Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY.

Although novel agents (NAs) have improved outcomes for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a subset will progress through all available NAs. Understanding outcomes for potentially curative modalities including allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloHCT) following NA therapy is critical while devising treatment sequences aimed at long-term disease control. In this multicenter, retrospective cohort study, we examined 65 patients with CLL who underwent alloHCT following exposure to ≥1 NA, including baseline disease and transplant characteristics, treatment preceding alloHCT, transplant outcomes, treatment following alloHCT, and survival outcomes. Univariable and multivariable analyses evaluated associations between pre-alloHCT factors and progression-free survival (PFS). Twenty-four-month PFS, overall survival (OS), nonrelapse mortality, and relapse incidence were 63%, 81%, 13%, and 27% among patients transplanted for CLL. Day +100 cumulative incidence of grade III-IV acute graft-vs-host disease (GVHD) was 24%; moderate-severe GVHD developed in 27%. Poor-risk disease characteristics, prior NA exposure, complete vs partial remission, and transplant characteristics were not independently associated with PFS. Hematopoietic cell transplantation-specific comorbidity index independently predicts PFS. PFS and OS were not impacted by having received NAs vs both NAs and chemoimmunotherapy, 1 vs ≥2 NAs, or ibrutinib vs venetoclax as the line of therapy immediately pre-alloHCT. AlloHCT remains a viable long-term disease control strategy that overcomes adverse CLL characteristics. Prior NAs do not appear to impact the safety of alloHCT, and survival outcomes are similar regardless of number of NAs received, prior chemoimmunotherapy exposure, or NA immediately preceding alloHCT. Decisions about proceeding to alloHCT should consider comorbidities and anticipated response to remaining therapeutic options.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/bloodadvances.2020001956DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7448605PMC
August 2020
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