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The new engl and jour nal of medicine n engl j med 354;17

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april 27, 2006
From the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital
review article and Richard J. Solove Research Institute,
the Ohio State University, Columbus.
Address reprint requests to Dr. Copelan at
A-437 Starling Loving Hall, 320 W. 10th
medical progress Ave., Columbus, OH 43210, or at edward.
copelan@osumc.edu.

Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation N Engl J Med 2006;354:1813-26.


Copyright © 2006 Massachusetts Medical Society.
Edward A. Copelan, M.D.

A lthough hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation was originally conceived


more than 50 years ago as a treatment for injury from irradiation and, later,
for cancer, associated problems needed to be solved before the procedure
could be used clinically. Bone marrow, the source of hematopoietic stem cells, is not
a solid organ but is rather diffuse and not directly accessible. Furthermore,
hematologic cells can initiate immune reactions that may thwart transplantation.
Hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation is used primarily for hematologic and
lymphoid cancers but also for many other disorders (Table 1). In this review, I
summarize background information about hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation
and discuss the role of the procedure in treating malignant and nonmalignant
conditions, focusing on recent progress.

Early Work

Studies from the mid-20th century demonstrated that massive total-body irradiation
causes fatal damage to the gastrointestinal and central nervous systems. Lower doses
lead to delayed death from hemorrhage and infection. In animal models, the
transplantation of genetically identical (syngeneic) marrow1 or the animal’s own
(autologous) stored marrow2 averted death. Grafts from histocompatible littermates
also permitted survival. The transplantation of marrow that was not genetically
identical (allogeneic) to that of the recipient resulted in an immunologic reaction by
the donor lymphocytes against the recipient, causing inflammation of the target
tissues, termed graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Treatment with methotrexate
suppressed GVHD.3 As an alternative to total-body irradiation, cyclophosphamide
as a preparative regimen also permitted the engraftment of allogeneic marrow. 4
Thomas was a pioneer in applying the results from early studies in animals to the
treatment of leukemia in people. In 1959, he and his colleagues reported that a
patient with end-stage leukemia who was treated with total-body irradiation,
followed by infusion of her identical twin’s marrow, had a three-month remission.5
Allogeneic transplantation became feasible in the early 1960s, after the
identification and typing of HLA, the major histocompatibility complex. The genes
for HLA are closely linked on chromosome 6 and are inherited as haplotypes. Thus,
two siblings have about one chance in four of being HLA identical. Transplantation
of bone marrow from an HLA-matched child to his immunodeficient sibling was
successful because the recipient could not reject the allograft.6 In the 1970s, Thomas
and colleagues cured some patients who had end-stage leukemia by using marrow
from their HLA-identical siblings after ablating the host marrow with total-body
irradiation combined with cyclophosphamide.7 Transplantation during the first
remission of the leukemia was successful in more than half the patients. 8 The
occurrence of GVHD reduced the incidence of leukemic relapse, 9 which sug-

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Table 1. Diseases Commonly Treated with Hematopoietic
hierarchies of cells at
Stem-Cell Transplantation. various levels of
differentiation.
Autologous transplantation* Tumors arise from
Cancers malignant stem cells
Multiple myeloma that usually originate
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from normal stem
Hodgkin’s disease cells11 and retain the
Acute myeloid leukemia mechanism for self-
Neuroblastoma renewal.12 Most
Ovarian cancer
leukemic cells have a
Germ-cell tumors
limited capacity for
Other diseases
Autoimmune disorders proliferation and are
Amyloidosis continuously
Allogeneic transplantation† replenished by
Cancers leukemic stem cells.
Acute myeloid leukemia Only 1 in 1 million
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia leukemic blasts
Chronic myeloid leukemia appears to be a true
Myelodysplastic syndromes stem cell, according to
Myeloproliferative disorders
the capacity to
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Hodgkin’s disease
propagate and sustain
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia human leukemia in
Multiple myeloma immunologically
Juvenile chronic myeloid leukemia susceptible mice.13
Other diseases Aplastic The chemotherapy
anemia used to treat cancers acts
Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria
Fanconi’s anemia
primarily on
Blackfan–Diamond anemia proliferating cells.
Thalassemia major Normal and malignant
Sickle cell anemia stem cells, however, are
Severe combined immunodeficiency quiescent and therefore
Wiskott–Aldrich syndrome insensitive to therapy.
Inborn errors of metabolism Both normal and
* More than 30,000 autologous transplantations are performed annually worldwide, two
thirds for multiple myeloma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. malignant stem cells
† More than 15,000 allogeneic transplantations are performed annually worldwide, nearly repair DNA efficiently,
half for acute leukemias. The vast majority are performed to treat lymphoid and resist apoptosis, and
hematologic cancers.
excrete toxic drugs by
means of ATP-binding
transporters.14 Thus,
although chemotherapy
gested that donor lymphocytes can eradicate tumor cells that survive
can destroy a tumor
preparative regimens. All of this work was the foundation for the current
almost completely, the
understanding of hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation.
stem cells are spared,
allowing the cancer to
Current Knowledge and Theory recur. Even in cases of
chronic myeloid
Mature blood cells are produced continuously by less-differentiated
leukemia that are
precursors that are in turn descended from more primitive progenitors and,
responsive to imatinib —
originally, from hematopoietic stem cells. Stem cells, including
a molecularly targeted
hematopoietic stem cells, have the unique capacity to produce some
therapy that impairs the
daughter cells that retain stem-cell properties; they do not become
transfer mediated by
specialized and thus are self-renewing — a lifetime source of blood cells.
BCR-ABL (a tyrosine
In fact, a single stem cell can restore the entire lymphohematopoietic
kinase) of phosphate to
system of a lethally irradiated animal.10 Just as in the normal hematologic
its substrates — studies
system, the cells that cause leukemia and other cancers consist of
of bone marrow15 and
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sophisticated mathematical modeling techniques16 have shown the continued eign donor antigens and
presence of leukemic stem cells, which cause relapse. Some malignant stem
cells survive even lethal doses of total-body irradiation and chemotherapy antigens and can cause GVHD and graft-versu
given in preparation for hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation. However, The strongest transplant
such cells may be eliminated by immunologically active donor cells. 17 reactions occur when the major
Allogeneic grafts initiate immune reactions related to histocompatibility. histocompatibility antigens
The severity of the reaction depends on the degree of incompatibility, which (HLA) of the donor and of the
is determined by a complex biology in which polymorphic class I and class II recipient are incompatible. The
HLA cellsurface glycoproteins bind small peptides from degraded proteins. intensity of the reaction
The aggregate of oligopeptides displayed is determined by the binding increases with the generation of
specificities of a person’s HLA molecules. T-cell receptors interact with the multiple peptides from degraded
surface glycoproteins and the bound peptides. Recipient T cells recognize for- HLA molecules and in the
presence of recognizable
determinants on HLA molecules
on the cell surface of so-called
antigen-presenting cells. In
contrast, minor
histocompatibility antigens are
single peptides derived from
polymorphic proteins (which
may differ between donor and
recipient) that are distinct from
the major histocompatibility
complex. The minor antigens
are presented by a small fraction
of HLA molecules and initiate
weaker responses than the major
antigens do. Minor antigens
encoded by genes on the Y
chromosome account for the
higher incidence of GVHD18
and lower rate of relapse of
underlying disease19 among
male recipients of marrow
transplants from female donors
than among male recipients of
transplants from male donors.
Minor histocompatibility
antigens on leukemic cells can
provoke a graft-versus-leukemia
response17,19,20 (Fig. 1). Donor T
cells reactive to recipient minor
histocompatibility antigens
inhibit the growth of leukemic
colonies and, in one study,
prevented the development of
acute myeloid leukemia derived
from human cells in
immunologically susceptible
mice.20 Thus, leukemic stem
cells can be eliminated by
means of this mechanism.
Donor T cells can also target
aberrantly expressed proteins
(e.g., proteinase 3 in myeloid
leukemias) and can inhibit
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leukemic, but not normal, colony formation.21 The graft-versus-leukemia effect GVHD is an immune response accentuated
accounts for reduced rates of relapse both after allogeneic transplantation (as preparative regimen used before transplan
compared with transplantation of marrow from an identical twin) and among patients gastrointestinal tract, where
in whom GVHD develops (as compared with patients in whom it does not). 22 These
results explain the effectiveness of infusions of donor lymphocytes in treating
leukemia relapse after transplantation.23
tral role in attracting donor T cells after the injury, Total-body irradiation is myeloablative and
a process that may contribute to the development immunosuppressive, is not associated with
of GVHD (Fig. 2). Cytokines are critical to crossresistance to chemotherapy, and reaches
GVHD, and their genetic variants influence its sites that are not affected by chemotherapy. The
development. Indeed, the inactivation of the effects of total-body irradiation are independent
chemokines or the adhesion molecules that attract of the blood
donor T cells to Peyer’s patches eliminates most Figure 2 (facing page). Postulated Mechanism of Acute
deaths from GVHD in mice.25 By suppressing the GVHD.
release of inflammatory cytokines and the High-dose preparative regimens damage tissues,
activation of T cells, interleukin-10 promotes particularly in the gut, allowing lipopolysaccharide from
bacteria in the bowel to leak into adjacent tissues and the
tolerance. Homozygosity for a common variant of bloodstream. Distinct classes of conserved microbial
the interleukin-10 promoter appears to increase molecules and necrotic-cell elements (including high-
the production of interleukin-10 and reduce the mobility group box 1 protein) activate toll-like receptors
incidence of GVHD.26 The genetic on various cells, which leads to release of inflammatory
polymorphisms of other cytokines also appear to cytokines (including tumor necrosis factor α [TNF-α] and
influence GVHD.27 In addition, small variations interleukin-1, interleukin-6, and interleukin-12). As part of
the innate immune response, neutrophils, macrophages,
in donor or recipient genes that encode a protein and eosinophils migrate to the damaged tissue and cause
(NOD2/CARD15) critical to the response of further injury. Dendritic cells, containing antigen captured
macrophages to a bacterial toxin are associated from damaged intestinal mucosal cells, are activated by
with severe GVHD.28 Therefore, genotyping may toll-like receptors. The cells migrate to lymphoid organs
be useful to help estimate the risk of GVHD, (particularly Peyer’s patches), where they mature. The
mature dendritic cells, expressing high levels of
identify donors, and develop individualized costimulatory molecules, present peptides to donor T cells.
prevention strategies. This presentation induces an alloantigenic response
Hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation involving the proliferation of donor T cells and the
results in more cures and remissions than secretion of cytokines (interleukin-2 and interferon-γ); such
alternative treatments but also causes greater secretion promotes further proliferation of donor T cells
and activates cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells.
morbidity and mortality. Although the mortality Natural killer cells produce interferon-γ and TNF-α. The
rate is less than 2 percent for some autologous effects of the cytokines (shown at their cells of origin) are
transplantations and is less than 10 percent for widespread: they activate effector cells, particularly
some allogeneic transplantations, about 40 macrophages and natural killer cells, which damage tissues.
percent of patients with advanced cancer who All these responses further increase inflammation and
injury. The acquired immune response is controlled and
undergo allogeneic transplantation die from limited by CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells. The activation of
complications related to transplantation. toll-like receptors blocks the suppressive effect of these
Reducing the toxicity of the preparative regimen regulatory cells, which in turn permits activated T cells to
is critical to improving the safety of enter the circulation, migrate, and damage other organs,
transplantation. particularly the skin and liver.

Prepar ative Regimens supply, and local shielding of organs and boosting
of dose are feasible. Fractionating the dose of
The object of myeloablative preparation before total-body irradiation reduces toxicity.
transplantation is both to eradicate cancer and, in Fractionated total-body irradiation combined with
allogeneic transplantation, to induce the cyclophosphamide has been the standard
immunosuppression that permits engraftment. preparation since the 1980s. In one study, higher-
The preparative regimen can also augment the than-standard doses of total-body irradiation
antitumor immune response by causing a reduced the rate of relapse but did not improve
breakdown of tumor cells, which results in a flood survival, because transplantation-related
of tumor antigens into antigen-presenting cells. mortality increased.30 Selective radiation of
This flooding can lead to the proliferation of T leukemias involves the delivery of radiolabeled
cells, which attack the surviving malignant cells.29 monoclonal antibodies against antigens on

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marrow cells.31 Newer methods of selective resulted in the development of radiation-free


radiation promise increased specificity.32 regimens. In 1983, a regimen of busulfan
The toxicity of total-body irradiation and the combined with high doses of cyclophosphamide
scarcity of facilities for the procedure have proved effective in treating acute myeloid
leukemia.33 The

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dose of cyclophosphamide was soon lowered to mide. 36 Toxicity can be reduced by adjusting the
reduce toxicity.34 With this regimen, acute adverse busulfan dose according to the plasma levels of
effects are associated with high plasma levels of the drug37 or by using intravenous, instead of oral,
busulfan35 and of metabolites of cyclophospha- busulfan.38
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A better understanding of graft-versus- as an outpatient procedure. Within a few


tumor biology led to the development of months after transplantation, donor
reduced-intensity preparative regimens in lymphocytes can be infused to augment
the late 1990s. Unlike traditional graft-versus-tumor activity. Such reduced-
myeloablative preparations, these regimens intensity regimens were designed originally
are primarily immunosuppressive and for older recipients or for recipients with
depend on the graft to eradicate cancer (Fig. organ dysfunction. (The toxic effects of
3). If immunologic elimination of malignant myeloablative allotransplantation increase
stem cells is the key to successful with age, particularly after the age of 50
allotransplantation, then reduced-intensity years, and generally preclude performing the
regimens seem preferable. procedure in patients who are older than 65
Storb and colleagues developed a regimen years.) The safety and effectiveness of these
of low-dose total-body irradiation and regimens have led to their wider application
immunosuppressive drugs after during the past five years. For patients with
transplantation to permit engraftment and to advanced hematologic cancer, however, the
prevent GVHD.39 A high rejection rate was low mortality rate associated with reduced-
reduced by adding an immunosuppressive intensity preparative regimens may be offset
agent, fludarabine, before total-body by high relapse rates.41 Allogeneic
irradiation.40 With this regimen, neutropenia transplantation after the receipt of reduced-
and thrombocytopenia are mild, toxic effects intensity regimens is most effective in
are minimal, and transplantation is feasible treating slow-growing cancers (e.g., chronic

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lymphocytic leukemia and low-grade


nonHodgkin’s lymphoma). The use of this
approach in treating acute leukemia in
remission and myelodysplasia is under
study.

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Sources of Stem Cells years. Because autologous transplantation does not


induce GVHD, it can be used in older patients.
Bone marrow obtained by repeated aspiration of the Mortality is considerably lower with
posterior iliac crests while the donor is under general autotransplantation than with allotransplantation, but
or local anesthesia was the first source of the absence of graft-versus-tumor activity in
hematopoietic stem cells. Discomfort from the autotransplantation reduces its effectiveness. The
harvesting procedure usually disappears within two contamination of grafts with tumor cells contributes to
weeks, and serious effects are rare (two deaths in 8000 relapse in hematologic cancers,48 but the purging of
collections).42 tumor cells from grafts immunologically or with the
Because marrow stem cells detach continuously, use of other techniques does not appear to improve
enter the circulation, and return to the marrow, survival.49 Indeed, the failure to eradicate cancer in the
peripheral blood is a convenient source of patient is the primary cause of relapse.
hematopoietic stem cells and has replaced marrow for Less than 30 percent of potential recipients
autologous and most allogeneic transplantations. As of hematopoietic stem cells have HLA-
compared with marrow, peripheral-blood stem cells identical siblings. Thus, the use of other
obtained with currently used techniques produce more sources of these cells has been an important
rapid hematopoietic reconstitution. In allogeneic advance. For example, the use of unrelated
transplantation, however, peripheral-blood stem cells, donors has increased, and the rates of success
which contain more T cells than marrow does, increase of such procedures have improved as better
the incidence43 and prolong the treatment44 of chronic methods of gene definition and matching
GVHD. The number of peripheral-blood stem cells is have been developed. These methods involve
estimated with use of the cell-surface molecule CD34 DNA typing to identify HLA alleles and the
as a surrogate marker. The number of CD34+ cells in most closely matched donor, since the use of
blood can be increased by mobilizing them from the a closely matched donor increases the
marrow with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor chances of successful engraftment and
(G-CSF), which causes the proliferation of neutrophils reduces the risk of GVHD.50 How well a
and the release of proteases. Proteases degrade the recipient tolerates HLA mismatches depends
proteins that anchor the stem cells to the marrow on the particular epitopes present, and young
stroma and, together with protease-independent recipients tolerate mismatches better than
mechanisms, free the cells to enter the circulation.45 older recipients do. The number of matched
The mobilization of CD34+ cells is increased when G- unrelated donors is limited by the extensive
CSF is given after chemotherapy. The combination of polymorphism of HLA genes. International
G-CSF and AMD3100 — a small-molecule reversible registries now list more than 9 million
inhibitor of CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4), a potential donors and find acceptable donors
receptor on CD34+ cells that mediates signals to for more than 50 percent of patients.
potentiate the adhesion of CD34+ cells to marrow — However, identifying unrelated donors and
is superior to G-CSF alone in mobilizing CD34+ then procuring the stem cells usually take
cells.46 Leukapheresis in an adult, performed through more than three months. Largely because of
the antecubital veins, can process up to 25 liters of this delay, less than half the donors who were
blood in four hours, which usually yields enough matched to patients in this way are used.51
CD34+ peripheral-blood stem cells to ensure rapid
engraftment. Cord-Blood Transplantation
Studies performed during the 1980s showed that If transplantation is urgent or if suitable
autologous transplantation cured some lymphomas donors are not found, cord blood, which can
after conventional chemotherapy failed to do so.47 be procured both easily and safely, can be
Autologous transplantation was applied successfully used. First used in a child with Fanconi’s
to treat many other diseases and is now used more anemia,52 cord blood from mostly unrelated
often than allotransplantation. For autotransplantation, donors has since been transplanted into more
hematopoietic stem cells are usually frozen at than 6000 patients. Blood from the umbilical
temperatures below −120°C and are used within a few cord and the placenta is rich in hematopoietic
weeks, although, when frozen, they are viable for stem cells but limited in volume. It is
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collected immediately after birth and then associated with high rates of engraftment
frozen. Because hematologic and failure and GVHD — complications that
immunologic reconstitution is slow in predictably caused death soon after
transplanted cord blood, infection is common transplantation. In the past decade, however,
soon after transplantation. The technical advances have improved the
transplantation of cord blood requires less- outcomes of this approach.57 This type of
stringent HLA matching than does the transplantation involves another alloreactive
transplantation of adult peripheral blood or mechanism involving natural killer cells,
marrow, because mismatched cord-blood which express combinations of activating
cells are less likely to cause GVHD, without and inhibitory killer-cell immunoglobulin-
losing the graft-versus-leukemia effect.53 The like receptors that interact with class I HLA
results are better with fewer HLA mismatches epitopes. The balance of signals determines
and greater numbers of CD34+ cells.53 The the cytolytic activity of the natural killer
use of additional grafts from different donors cells, a process that is inhibited by the
may improve engraftment, particularly when recognition of self-epitopes by the
the first graft contains few cells.54 immunoglobulin-like receptors.
The ex vivo expansion of cord-blood stem Alloreactivity improves the chances of
cells55 and the transplantation of cord blood engraftment and reduces the risk of GVHD;
along with HLA-haploidentical peripheral- it also reduces relapse in patients with acute
blood stem cells56 are under study. Cord- myeloid leukemia.58 Because half of
blood banks in 21 countries currently store transplants from unrelated donors are
about 170,000 units. Bone Marrow Donors mismatched for one or more HLA alleles,
Worldwide (www.bmdw.org) collects and alloreactivity of natural killer cells could be
lists HLA types for cord-blood and adult used for choosing donors and improving the
registries. The less-stringent HLA outcome; however, retrospective studies
requirements for cord-blood transplantation have been inconclusive.59,60
would permit a smaller donor pool to serve Originally a treatment of last resort, hematopoietic
virtually all potential recipients. Members of stem-cell transplantation is now used early in the
minority populations, who are course of many diseases. Its appropriate use requires
underrepresented in adult registries and often full knowledge of its outcomes and complications and
lack matches, would benefit from an increase those of other treatments.
in the number of cord-blood donors. For
many children, cord blood is now
Complications
transplanted instead of peripheral blood or
marrow from unrelated adults. For adults, Early Effects
cord blood is currently used when suitable
Mucositis is an important problem of hematopoietic
adult donors cannot be found quickly. Data
stem-cell transplantation. In the short term, it is the
from the Center for International Blood and
most common complication of myeloablative
Marrow Transplant Research indicate that 5
preparative regimens and methotrexate (used to
percent of transplants from unrelated donors
prevent GVHD). Oropharyngeal mucositis is painful
into adult recipients consist of cord blood
and can involve the supraglottic area and require
(Horowitz M: personal communication).
intubation. Intestinal mucositis causes nausea,
Improving matches and increasing cell doses
cramping, and diarrhea and may require parenteral
should extend the usefulness of cord-blood
nutrition. A recombinant human keratinocyte growth
transplantation.
factor, palifermin, reduces the in cidence of oral
mucositis after autologous transplantation.61 In mice,
Transplantation Involving a
keratinocyte growth factor protects the gut, which
Haploidentical Donor
reduces the severity of GVHD,62 and protects the
The transplantation of stem cells from a epithelium of the thymus, which improves immune
parent, sibling, or child of a patient with only reconstitution.
one identical HLA haplotype was initially
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The second most common acute adverse effect is a subclinical cytomegalovirus infection and make early
potentially fatal syndrome of painful hepatomegaly, treatment possible. Better prevention and treatment of
jaundice, and fluid retention, traditionally called transplantation-related infections have improved
hepatic veno-occlusive disease. However, the term outcomes of transplantation.
“sinusoidal obstruction syndrome” is more accurate,63 GVHD is the most important complication of
because damaged sinusoidal endothelium sloughs and allogeneic transplantation. Acute GVHD damages the
then obstructs the hepatic circulation, injuring skin, gut, and liver. A pruritic micropapillary rash can
centrilobular hepatocytes. In severe sinusoidal affect the palms, soles, or face and may become
obstruction syndrome, renal and respiratory failure generalized. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain,
may occur. Totalbody irradiation, busulfan, diarrhea, bloody stool, and jaundice may occur.
cyclophosphamide, and many other preparative agents GVHD and its treatment with corticosteroids cause
cause sinusoidal obstruction syndrome, which limits profound immunodeficiency, predisposing the patient
maximal doses. Risk factors for the syndrome include to fatal infection. The principal risk factor is HLA
chronic liver disease and the presence of the C282Y mismatch, but GVHD may occur despite an HLA-
allele of the HFE hemochromatosis gene.64 Common matched donor and the use of preventive measures. If
variants of the glutathione S-transferase gene alter the prophylaxis is not provided, serious acute GVHD
metabolism of busulfan and cyclophosphamide and affects almost every recipient.71 The risk of GVHD is
are associated with an increased incidence of greatly reduced by short-term treatment with
sinusoidal obstruction syndrome after the use of these methotrexate plus treatment with cyclosporine for
drugs in the preparative regimen.65 Because there is no several months.72 The incidence of GVHD can be
effective treatment for the syndrome, its prevention is reduced by in vitro T-cell depletion of the graft before
critical. The substitution of fludarabine for transplantation, but this does not improve disease-free
cyclophosphamide66 and the use of reduced-intensity survival, because the rates of graft rejection and
regimens67 appear to decrease the risk of sinusoidal relapse increase. A reduced-intensity regimen of total
obstruction syndrome. lymphoid irradiation and antithymocyte globulin may
Transplantation-related lung injury occurs within decrease the incidence of GVHD.73 (The results of
four months after the procedure, and the mortality rate studies in mice suggest that repeated low-dose
exceeds 60 percent. Risk factors include total-body lymphoid irradiation spares natural killer T cells that
irradiation, allogeneic transplantation, and acute prevent acute GVHD.)74 Gene modification of donor T
GVHD, suggesting that donor lymphocytes target the cells is a potential means of treating GVHD. Viral
lung.68 Along with neutrophils and lymphocytes, genes that are capable of converting drugs into lethal
tumor necrosis factor — induced by GVHD and the products have been expressed in donor T cells, which
lipopolysaccharide that enters the circulation through can then be eliminated if severe GVHD develops.75 It
damaged intestinal mucosa — contributes to lung is difficult, however, to transduce and eliminate
injury; treatment with etanercept, which inhibits tumor sufficient numbers of lymphocytes. Current studies
necrosis factor, combined with corticosteroids, may use human proteins to induce lymphocyte apoptosis.76
reduce injury if used promptly.69
Transplantation-related infections result from Delayed Effects
damage to the mouth, gut, and skin from preparative Most survivors of transplantation are active
regimens as well as from catheters, neutropenia, and and healthy, but some delayed complications,
immunodeficiency. Reduced-intensity regimens are particularly chronic GVHD, can be serious.
associated with a lower rate of early infections than are The risk increases with recipient and donor
myeloablative regimens, but the risk of late infection age and is increased for peripheral-blood
seems to be the same. Prolonged neutropenia, GVHD, grafts or grafts from unrelated donors.
and the administration of corticosteroids predispose Chronic GVHD is associated with loss of
patients to fungal infection, a life-threatening self-tolerance77 and often resembles
complication of allogeneic transplantation. scleroderma or Sjögren’s syndrome. Chronic
Cytomegalovirus pneumonia, once fatal to 15 percent GVHD can cause bronchiolitis,
of recipients of allogeneic transplantation,70 has keratoconjunctivitis sicca, esophageal
become rare with the use of techniques involving stricture, malabsorption, cholestasis,
antigens or the polymerase chain reaction that detect hematocytopenia, and generalized
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immunosuppression. Treatment with Children who undergo transplantation


corticosteroids may be needed for two years have special problems. Growth and
or longer.44 Corticosteroids can cause a development are impaired by myeloablative
variety of complications, including aseptic preparative regimens, but growth hormone
necrosis of bone and osteoporosis, and may therapy can increase height in children who
predispose the patient to fatal infections. If have undergone hematopoietic stem-cell
severe hypogammaglobulinemia occurs, transplantation.81
treatment with intravenous immune globulin The frequency of secondary cancers is
can reduce infections.78 increased after transplantation. After
Most women fail to ovulate after allotransplantation, the incidence of cancers
undergoing transplantation. Hormonal of the skin, oral mucosa, brain, thyroid, and
suppression of the ovaries before the bone is increased.82 Myelodysplasia and
preparative regimen is administered might acute leukemia are complications of
permit the recovery of ovulation after autologous transplantation for Hodgkin’s
transplantation.79 Some women who have and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.83 The type
undergone transplantation have become and intensity of the pretransplantation
pregnant using cryopreserved embryos or chemotherapy used affect this risk.84
oocytes. Men usually become infertile after Survivors of transplantation must avoid
transplantation, but younger men may carcinogens, particularly tobacco. They
recover their fertility, and if sperm are present should be followed indefinitely to detect
before transplantation, the semen can be early cancer or precursor lesions. They
cryopreserved and used later. Even low- should also be observed for other conditions
quality sperm can result in pregnancy by that have been reported: hypothyroidism,
means of in vitro fertilization, particularly sexual problems, depression, and anxiety.85
with intracytoplasmic injection.80
Uses and Results
Table 2. Outcomes of Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation in Selected Diseases.*

Most Common 100-Day 5-Yr Event-free Disease Preparative


Regimen Mortality Rate Survival
percent
Autologous transplantation

Diffuse large-cell non-Hodgkin’s Carmustine, cyclophosphamide, lymphoma and


etoposide
First chemotherapy-sensitive re- 3–5 45–50 lapse

Second chemotherapy-sensitive re- 5–8 30–35 lapse

Refractory 10–20 5–10

Allogeneic transplantation†

Acute myeloid leukemia Cyclophosphamide and total-body


irradiation
First complete remission 7–10 55–65

Second complete remission 10–20 30–40

Refractory 30–40 15–20

Chronic myeloid leukemia Busulfan and cyclophosphamide

Chronic phase <1 yr after diagnosis 5–10 70–80


1824 n engl j med 354;17 www.nejm.org april 27, 2006
Chronic phase >1 yr after diagnosis 10–15 50–60

Accelerated 15–20 30–35


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* The estimated ranges of data are based on recent reports.
† This category refers to the transplantation of hematopoietic stem cells from an HLA-identical sibling donor.
medical progress

The diseases most often treated with autologous and


allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation are
listed in Table 1. Outcomes vary according to the type
and stage of disease, the age and functional level of the
patient, the source of the stem cells to be transplanted,
and the degree of HLA mismatch. Because
transplantation is costly (at present, generally
exceeding $80,000 for autologous transplantation and
$150,000 for allogeneic transplantation) and the
resulting morbidity

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and mortality are substantial, the goal of ter than chemotherapy for treating the first
transplantation is usually to cure the disease. However, relapse of large-cell non-Hodgkin’s
although autologous transplantation does not cure lymphoma that is sensitive to
multiple myeloma, it does improve survival.86 Two chemotherapy.91 Nevertheless, data from the
autologous transplantations in succession may further Center for International Blood and Marrow
improve survival among patients with myeloma, Transplant Research show that many patients
especially if the response to the first is limited.87 undergo transplantation belatedly, when a
Hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation has cure is less likely (Horowitz M: personal
resulted in sustained remission in patients with communication). Other data from the center
autoimmune disease.88 Autologous transplantation has and data from the National Cancer Institute
resulted in remissions in patients with refractory (available at http://seer.cancer.gov) suggest
rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, and that only a minority of patients with a relapse
allotransplantation after reduced-intensity preparative responsive to chemotherapy ever undergo
regimens may prove to be curative. autologous transplantation. This finding
Hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation cures agrees with that of a report from 2001 92 and
many genetic diseases, including severe combined with the expert opinion that transplantation is
immunodeficiency, the Wiskott–Aldrich syndrome, broadly underused.93 The General
sickle cell anemia, and thalassemia. The outcome is Accounting Office estimates that in the
better among younger patients and patients with less United States, only one third of patients who
organ damage. For example, in patients with need transplants from unrelated donors have
thalassemia, the amount of preexisting liver damage preliminary searches requested from the
from iron overload affects the outcome of National Marrow Donor Registry.51
transplantation.89 For Krabbe’s disease — a rare, fatal Socioeconomic factors contribute to the
neurologic disorder caused by an enzyme deficiency decision,94-96 but all too often transplantation
— transplantation has usually been performed in is considered too late or not at all. Obviously,
symptomatic older children, but transplantation in the potential benefit of transplantation must
asymptomatic newborns yielded better results in a be balanced against its risk, and patients must
recent study.90 be fully informed of both.
Early transplantation is critical in patients with
hematologic cancers (Table 2), but the proper time to The Future
perform the procedure is difficult to ascertain and is
the subject of controversy. Recognized prognostic At present, hematopoietic stem-cell
factors, particularly cytogenetics, are used to transplantation provides the best chance for a
determine the time of transplantation for patients with cure for many diseases. Future work will
acute leukemia. Allotransplantation during the first determine the best ablative regimens for
remission usually offers the best chance for a cure for specific conditions, and technical advances
patients with a poor prognosis with conventional will improve the effectiveness of reduced-
chemotherapy alone. Allogeneic transplantation is intensity regimens. The use of cytokine
used after relapse in patients who had a favorable antagonists or suicide genes or the infusion of
prognosis with chemotherapy. In patients with chronic regulatory T cells97,98 may reduce the severity
myeloid leukemia, allotransplantation is the only of GVHD, and a better understanding of the
curative treatment, and it is safest when performed genetic polymorphisms involved in its
early. Although transplantation is an appropriate development may help prevent the disease.
firstline therapy in some patients, imatinib therapy is Embryonic stem cells may become a
favored for most patients, owing to the large number source of hematopoietic stem cells.99
of long remissions and minimal toxic effects Histocompatibility problems may be solved
associated with the agent. Transplantation is then by establishing comprehensive banks of
performed in patients who do not have a cytogenetic embryonic stem-cell lines or by creating
remission or after relapse. genetically matched stem-cell lines
Autologous transplantation is substantially bet- individually. The bioengineering of
embryonic stem cells might eliminate the

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need for HLA typing, procurement of I am indebted to Myra Patterson for assistance with the
preparation of the manuscript, to Melissa Hunter for
hematopoietic stem cells, and even assistance with the figures, and to Herbert Copelan for many
preparative therapy. helpful suggestions.
No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.
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