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Journal: Blood advances


Patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) can experience a severe disease course, with progressive destructive polyarthritis refractory to conventional therapy with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs including biologics, as well as life-threatening complications including macrophage activation syndrome (MAS). Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) is a potentially curative immunomodulatory strategy for patients with such refractory disease. We treated 16 patients in 5 transplant centers between 2007 and 2016: 11 children with systemic JIA and 5 with rheumatoid factor-negative polyarticular JIA; all were either refractory to standard therapy, had developed secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis/MAS poorly responsive to treatment, or had failed autologous HSCT. All children received reduced toxicity fludarabine-based conditioning regimens and serotherapy with alemtuzumab. Fourteen of 16 patients are alive with a median follow-up of 29 months (range, 2.8-96 months). All patients had hematological recovery. Three patients had grade II-IV acute graft-versus-host disease. The incidence of viral infections after HSCT was high, likely due to the use of alemtuzumab in already heavily immunosuppressed patients. All patients had significant improvement of arthritis, resolution of MAS, and improved quality of life early following allo-HSCT; most importantly, 11 children achieved complete drug-free remission at the last follow-up. Allo-HSCT using alemtuzumab and reduced toxicity conditioning is a promising therapeutic option for patients with JIA refractory to conventional therapy and/or complicated by MAS. Long-term follow-up is required to ascertain whether disease control following HSCT continues indefinitely.

Concepts: Disease, Infectious disease, Infection, Graft-versus-host disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, Organ transplant, Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, Juvenile idiopathic arthritis


Murine models showed that CD8+CD44himemory T ™ cells could eradicate malignant cells without inducing graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). We evaluated the feasibility and safety of infusing freshly isolated and purified donor-derived phenotypic CD8+TMcells into adults with disease relapse after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Phenotypic CD8 TMcells were isolated after unmobilized donor apheresis using a tandem immunomagnetic selection strategy of CD45RA depletion followed by CD8+enrichment. Fifteen patients received CD8+TMcells at escalating doses (1 × 106, 5 × 106, or 10 × 106cells per kg). Thirteen received cytoreduction before CD8+TMcell infusion, and 9 had active disease at the time of infusion. Mean yield and purity of the CD8+TMinfusion were 38.1% and 92.8%, respectively; >90% had CD8+T effector memory phenotype, cytokine expression, and secretion profile. No adverse infusional events or dose-limiting toxicities occurred; GVHD developed in 1 patient (grade 2 liver). Ten patients (67%) maintained or achieved response (7 complete response, 1 partial response, 2 stable disease) for at least 3 months after infusion; 4 of the responders had active disease at the time of infusion. With a median follow-up from infusion of 328 days (range, 118-1328 days), median event-free survival and overall survival were 4.9 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 1-19.3 months) and 19.6 months (95% CI, 5.6 months to not reached), respectively. Collection and enrichment of phenotypic CD8+TMcells is feasible, well tolerated, and associated with a low incidence of GVHD when administered as a manipulated infusion of donor lymphocytes in patients who have relapsed after HCT. This trial was registered at as #NCT01523223.

Concepts: Gene, Cancer, Medical terms, Graft-versus-host disease, Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, Normal distribution, Thymus, Infusion


Adolescents and young adults (AYAs, 15-39 years) with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) represent a heterogeneous population who receive care in pediatric or adult cancer settings. Using the California Cancer Registry, we describe AYA ALL patterns of care and outcomes over the past decade. Sociodemographics, treatment location, and front-line therapies administered to AYAs diagnosed with ALL between 2004 and 2014 were obtained. Cox regression models evaluated associations between ALL setting and regimen and overall survival (OS) and leukemia-specific survival (LSS) for the entire cohort, younger AYA (<25 years), and AYAs treated in the adult cancer setting only. Of 1473 cases, 67.7% were treated in an adult setting; of these, 24.8% received a pediatric ALL regimen and 40.7% were treated at a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated center. In multivariable analyses, front-line treatment in a pediatric (vs adult) setting (OS HR = 0.53, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.37-0.76; LSS HR = 0.51, 95% CI, 0.35-0.74) and at an NCI/Children's Oncology Group (COG) center (OS HR = 0.80, 95% CI, 0.66-0.96; LSS HR = 0.80, 95% CI, 0.65-0.97) were associated with significantly superior survival. Results were similar when analyses were limited to younger AYAs. Outcomes for AYAs treated in an adult setting did not differ following front-line pediatric or adult ALL regimens. Our population-level findings demonstrate that two-thirds of AYAs with newly diagnosed ALL are treated in an adult cancer setting, with the majority receiving care in community settings. Given the potential survival benefits, front-line treatment of AYA ALL at pediatric and/or NCI/COG-designated cancer centers should be considered.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Leukemia, Adolescence, National Cancer Institute, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Young adult


Relapses in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) are a result of quiescent leukemic stem cells (LSCs) in marrow stromal niches, where they resist chemotherapy. LSCs employ CXCL12/CXCR4 to home toward protective marrow niches. Heparin disrupts CXCL12-mediated sequestration of cells in the marrow. CX-01 is a low-anticoagulant heparin derivative. In this pilot study, we combined CX-01 with chemotherapy for the treatment of AML. Induction consisted of cytarabine and idarubicin (7 + 3) with CX-01. Twelve patients were enrolled (median age, 56 years; 3 women). Three, 5, and 4 patients had good-, intermediate-, and poor-risk disease, respectively. Day 14 bone marrows were available on 11 patients and were aplastic in all without detectable leukemia. Eleven patients (92%) had morphologic complete remission after 1 induction (CR1). Eight patients were alive at a median follow-up of 24 months (4 patients in CR1). Three patients received an allogeneic stem cell transplant in CR1. Median disease-free survival was 14.8 months. Median overall survival was not attained at the maximum follow-up time of 29.4 months. No CX-01-associated serious adverse events occurred. Median day to an untransfused platelet count of at least 20 × 109/L was 21. CX-01 is well tolerated when combined with intensive therapy for AML and appears associated with enhanced count recovery and treatment efficacy.

Concepts: Bone marrow, Cure, Chemotherapy, Leukemia, Organ transplant, Acute myeloid leukemia, Blood disorders, Myeloid sarcoma


A National Cancer Institute consensus study on prioritization of cancer antigens ranked the Wilms tumor 1 (WT1) protein as the top immunotherapy target in cancer. We previously reported a pilot study of a multivalent WT1 peptide vaccine (galinpepimut-S) in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients. We have now conducted a phase 2 study investigating this vaccine in adults with AML in first complete remission (CR1). Patients received 6 vaccinations administered over 10 weeks with the potential to receive 6 additional monthly doses if they remained in CR1. Immune responses (IRs) were evaluated after the 6th and 12th vaccinations by CD4+ T-cell proliferation, CD8+ T-cell interferon-γ secretion (enzyme-linked immunospot), or the CD8-relevant WT1 peptide major histocompatibility complex tetramer assay (HLA-A*02 patients only). Twenty-two patients (7 males; median age, 64 years) were treated. Fourteen patients (64%) completed ≥6 vaccinations, and 9 (41%) received all 12 vaccine doses. Fifteen patients (68%) relapsed, and 10 (46%) died. The vaccine was well tolerated, with the most common toxicities being grade ½ injection site reactions (46%), fatigue (32%), and skin induration (32%). Median disease-free survival from CR1 was 16.9 months, whereas the overall survival from diagnosis has not yet been reached but is estimated to be ≥67.6 months. Nine of 14 tested patients (64%) had an IR in ≥1 assay (CD4 or CD8). These results indicated that the WT1 vaccine was well tolerated, stimulated a specific IR, and was associated with survival in excess of 5 years in this cohort of patients. This trial was registered at as #NCT01266083.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Vaccine, Chemotherapy, Major histocompatibility complex, Leukemia, Acute myeloid leukemia, Wilms' tumor


CD34 is routinely used to identify and isolate human hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) for use clinically in bone marrow transplantation, but its function on these cells remains elusive. Glycoprotein ligands on HSPCs help guide their migration to specialized microvascular beds in the bone marrow that express vascular selectins (E- and P-selectin). Here, we show that HSPC-enriched fractions from human hematopoietic tissue expressing CD34 (CD34pos) bound selectins, whereas those lacking CD34 (CD34neg) did not. An unbiased proteomics screen identified potential glycoprotein ligands on CD34pos cells revealing CD34 itself as a major vascular selectin ligand. Biochemical and CD34 knockdown analyses highlight a key role for CD34 in the first prerequisite step of cell migration, suggesting that it is not just a marker on these cells. Our results also entice future potential strategies to investigate the glycoforms of CD34 that discriminate normal HSPCs from leukemic cells and to manipulate CD34neg HSPC-enriched bone marrow or cord blood populations as a source of stem cells for clinical use.

Concepts: Blood, Stem cell, Bone marrow, Chemotherapy, Hematology, Leukemia, Glycoprotein, Selectin


We hypothesized that third-party fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) may restore intestinal microbiome diversity after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). In this open-label single-group pilot study, 18 subjects were enrolled before allo-HCT and planned to receive third-party FMT capsules. FMT capsules were administered no later than 4 weeks after neutrophil engraftment, and antibiotics were not allowed within 48 hours before FMT. Five patients did not receive FMT because of the development of early acute gastrointestinal (GI) graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) before FMT (n = 3), persistent HCT-associated GI toxicity (n = 1), or patient decision (n = 1). Thirteen patients received FMT at a median of 27 days (range, 19-45 days) after HCT. Participants were able to swallow and tolerate all FMT capsules, meeting the primary study endpoint of feasibility. FMT was tolerated well, with 1 treatment-related significant adverse event (abdominal pain). Two patients subsequently developed acute GI GVHD, with 1 patient also having concurrent bacteremia. No additional cases of bacteremia occurred. Median follow-up for survivors is 15 months (range, 13-20 months). The Kaplan-Meier estimates for 12-month overall survival and progression-free survival after FMT were 85% (95% confidence interval, 51%-96%) and 85% (95% confidence interval, 51%-96%), respectively. There was 1 nonrelapse death resulting from acute GI GVHD (12-month nonrelapse mortality, 8%; 95% confidence interval, 0%-30%). Analysis of stool composition and urine 3-indoxyl sulfate concentration indicated improvement in intestinal microbiome diversity after FMT that was associated with expansion of stool-donor taxa. These results indicate that empiric third-party FMT after allo-HCT appears to be feasible, safe, and associated with expansion of recipient microbiome diversity. This trial was registered at as #NCT02733744.

Concepts: Bacteria, Estimator, Patient, Graft-versus-host disease, Interval finite element, Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, Normal distribution, Human feces


The application of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT) in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) patients ≥65 years in the United States is limited by lack of Medicare coverage for this indication. Using the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR) database, we report allo-HCT outcomes of NHL patients aged ≥65 years (older cohort; n = 446) compared with a cohort of younger NHL patients aged 55-64 years (n = 1183). We identified 1629 NHL patients undergoing a first reduced-intensity conditioning (RIC) or nonmyeloablative conditioning allo-HCT from 2008 to 2015 in the United States. Cord blood or haploidentical transplants were excluded. The median age was 68 years (range 65-77) for the older cohort vs 60 years (range 55-64) in the younger cohort. The 4-year adjusted probabilities of nonrelapse mortality (NRM), relapse/progression (R/P), progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS) of the younger and older groups were 24% vs 30% (P = .03), 41% vs 42% (P = .82), 37% vs 31% (P = .03), and 51% vs 46% (P = .07), respectively. Using multivariate analysis, compared with the younger group, the older cohort was associated with increased NRM, but there was no difference between the 2 cohorts in terms of R/P, PFS, or OS. The most common cause of death was disease relapse in both groups. In NHL patients eligible for allo-HCT, there was no difference in OS between the 2 cohorts. Age alone should not determine allo-HCT eligibility in NHL, and Medicare should expand allo-HCT coverage to older adults.

Concepts: Death, United States, Gerontology, Organ transplant, Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, Ageing, Aging, Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research


Practical methods are needed to increase the applicability and efficacy of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies. Using donor-derived CAR-T cells is attractive, but expression of endogenous T-cell receptors (TCRs) carries the risk for graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD). To remove surface TCRαβ, we combined an antibody-derived single-chain variable fragment specific for CD3ε with 21 different amino acid sequences predicted to retain it intracellularly. After transduction in T cells, several of these protein expression blockers (PEBLs) colocalized intracellularly with CD3ε, blocking surface CD3 and TCRαβ expression. In 25 experiments, median TCRαβ expression in T lymphocytes was reduced from 95.7% to 25.0%; CD3/TCRαβ cell depletion yielded virtually pure TCRαβ-negative T cells. Anti-CD3ε PEBLs abrogated TCRαβ-mediated signaling, without affecting immunophenotype or proliferation. In anti-CD3ε PEBL-T cells, expression of an anti-CD19-41BB-CD3ζ CAR induced cytokine secretion, long-term proliferation, and CD19+leukemia cell killing, at rates meeting or exceeding those of CAR-T cells with normal CD3/TCRαβ expression. In immunodeficient mice, anti-CD3ε PEBL-T cells had markedly reduced GVHD potential; when transduced with anti-CD19 CAR, these T cells killed engrafted leukemic cells. PEBL blockade of surface CD3/TCRαβ expression is an effective tool to prepare allogeneic CAR-T cells. Combined PEBL and CAR expression can be achieved in a single-step procedure, is easily adaptable to current cell manufacturing protocols, and can be used to target other T-cell molecules to further enhance CAR-T-cell therapies.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Amino acid, B cell, T cell, T cells, Major histocompatibility complex, T cell receptor


Optimal donor selection is critical for successful allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Donor sex and parity are well-established risk factors for graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), with male donors typically associated with lower rates of GVHD. Well-matched unrelated donors (URDs) have also been associated with increased risks of GVHD as compared with matched sibling donors. These observations raise the question of whether male URDs would lead to more (or less) favorable transplant outcomes as compared with parous female sibling donors. We used the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research registry to complete a retrospective cohort study in adults with acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or myelodysplastic syndrome, who underwent T-cell replete HCT from these 2 donor types (parous female sibling or male URD) between 2000 and 2012. Primary outcomes included grade 2 to 4 acute GVHD (aGVHD), chronic GVHD (cGVHD), and overall survival. Secondary outcomes included disease-free survival, transplant-related mortality, and relapse. In 2813 recipients, patients receiving male URD transplants (n = 1921) had 1.6 times higher risk of grade 2 to 4 aGVHD (P < .0001). For cGVHD, recipient sex was a significant factor, so donor/recipient pairs were evaluated. Female recipients of male URD grafts had a higher risk of cGVHD than those receiving parous female sibling grafts (relative risk [RR] = 1.43, P < .0001), whereas male recipients had similar rates of cGVHD regardless of donor type (RR = 1.09, P = .23). Donor type did not significantly affect any other end point. We conclude that when available, parous female siblings are preferred over male URDs.