Conference Coverage

Nonmyeloablative conditioning gets a radiation boost for severe hemoglobinopathies



– A nonmyeloablative conditioning regimen with a boosted dose of total body irradiation yielded success for a cohort of patients with severe hemoglobinopathy and haploidentical donors.

Of 17 patients with severe sickle cell disease or beta-thalassemia who received allogeneic bone marrow transplants, all but one had successful engraftment, and 13 have achieved full donor chimerism, said Javier Bolaños-Meade, MD.

Dr. Javier Bolanos-Meade (L) and Dr. Jerome Ritz of Harvard Medical School, Boston. Kari Oakes/Frontline Medical News

Dr. Javier Bolaños-Meade

The remaining three recipients have mixed chimerism, he said, speaking at a late-breaking abstracts session of the combined annual meetings of the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research and the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

“Cure of severe hemoglobinopathies is now possible for most patients,” said Dr. Bolaños-Meade. “It should no longer be considered as available to only a fraction of such patients,” such as those who come with a fully-matched donor and those able to tolerate myeloablative conditioning, he said.

Of the patients who received bone marrow transplants, five patients have stopped immunosuppressive therapy, and all patients are alive, having been followed for a median of 15 months (range, 3-34 months).

The rate of graft versus host disease (GVHD) was low: Two patients developed grade 2 acute GVHD, and one patient developed grade 3 acute GVHD; another three patients had mild to moderate chronic GVHD, but all GVHD has resolved, said Dr. Bolaños-Meade.

Historically, the difficulties with transplant in this population were numerous. “No. 1, it’s very difficult to find an HLA-matched donor,” said Dr. Bolaños-Meade. Also, since there’s no target for graft-versus-tumor effect post-transplant, any amount of chronic GVHD is also high on the list of concerns when considering a transplant for hemoglobinopathy.

“The other problem in this group of patients is their ability to tolerate myeloablation,” he said. The accumulated burden of disease, as well as sequelae of transfusion dependence for some, may make a myeloablative regime too risky.

Dr. Bolaños-Meade said that he and his collaborators at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, wanted to be able to address all of these concerns in one regimen. “We were trying to work out a system that may be able to solve all the problems – to use nonmyeloablation and to use whatever donor is available.”

His research group had previously shown that nonmyeloablative transplants were well tolerated in patients with sickle cell disease and that haploidentical donors could be used (Blood. 2012 Nov 22;120[22]:4285-91). “However, we had a very high incidence of graft failure,” Dr. Bolaños-Meade said.

A strategy to increase the engraftment rate while still limiting toxicity, he said, would be to increase the dose of total body irradiation used in the conditioning regimen, from 200 to 400 centigray (cGy); this higher dose was incorporated into the study protocol.

Patients were enrolled if they had severe sickle cell disease (SCD; n = 12) or beta-thalassemia (n = 5).

To enroll in the study, SCD patients had to have been hospitalized at least twice a year in the preceding 2 years. The patients with SCD were a median 26 years of age (range, 6-31 years); four were male, and eight were female. Three of the SCD patients were transfusion dependent, and several had such serious complications as osteonecrosis, brain changes seen in medical imaging, and acute coronary syndrome.

The beta-thalassemia patients were a median 7 years of age (range, 6-16 years); all but one were female, and all had been transfusion dependent since infancy.

Bone marrow donors were not all first degree relatives: There were five mothers, four fathers, four brothers, and three sisters, but also an aunt. Two pairs had major ABO incompatibility, and five had minor ABO incompatibility. Ten were ABO compatible.

The conditioning regimen for all patients involved rabbit antithymocyte globulin, fludarabine, and cyclophosphamide, and then total body irradiation given the day before transplant.

After transplant, in addition to standard supportive care, patients received cyclophosphamide on days 3 and 4. Beginning on day 5, patients received mycophenolate mofetil through day 35 and sirolimus for 1 full year after transplant.

The antithymocyte globulin induced sickle cell crises in all SCD patients, and one patient developed sirolimus-induced diabetes. One other patient had a worsening of Meniere disease, and another patient developed BK virus cystitis.

Breaking down outcomes by disease type, Dr. Bolaños-Meade said that the one engraftment failure occurred in an SCD patient. Of the remaining 11 engrafted patients, 9 have full donor chimerism, and all but 1 of the 11 are transfusion independent now. The patient who remains transfusion dependent has mixed chimerism and received bone marrow from a donor with major ABO mismatch. Although one of the five beta-thalassemia patients also has mixed chimerism, all are now transfusion independent.

The boost in hemoglobin post-transplant was relatively modest for the beta-thalassemia group, from a median 9.5 to 10.1 g/dL at the most recent visit. However, the pretransplant levels were boosted by transfusions for all patients in this group, Dr. Bolaños-Meade pointed out.

The SCD patients saw their hemoglobin go from a median 8.65 to 11.4 g/dL (P = .001). Median bilirubin for this group dropped from 2.4 to 0.2 mg/dL (P = .002) with the cessation of sickling-related hemolysis; significant improvements were also seen in absolute reticulocyte counts and lactate dehydrogenase levels.

Dr. Bolaños-Meade reported that he is on the data safety monitoring board of Incyte.


Next Article: