Conference Coverage

Expanded UCB product can stand alone


Mitchell Horwitz, MD

SALT LAKE CITY—The expanded umbilical cord blood (UCB) product NiCord can be used as a stand-alone graft, according to research presented at the 2018 BMT Tandem Meetings.

Researchers found that a single NiCord unit provided “robust” engraftment in a phase 1/2 study of patients with high-risk hematologic malignancies.

NiCord recipients had quicker neutrophil and platelet engraftment than matched control subjects who received standard myeloablative UCB transplant (single or double).

Mitchell Horwitz, MD, of the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, presented these results at the meeting as abstract 49.* The research was sponsored by Gamida Cell, the company developing NiCord.

“[NiCord] is an ex vivo expanded cell product that’s derived from an entire unit of umbilical cord blood,” Dr Horwitz explained. “It’s manufactured starting with a CD133-positive selection, which is the progenitor cell population that’s cultured, and a T-cell containing CD133-negative fraction that is provided also at the time of transplant.”

“The culture system contains nicotinamide—that’s the active ingredient in the culture. And that’s supplemented with cytokines—thrombopoietin, IL-6, FLT-3 ligand, and stem cell factor. The culture is 21 days.”

Previous research showed that double UCB transplant including a NiCord unit could provide benefits over standard double UCB transplant. This led Dr Horwitz and his colleagues to wonder if NiCord could be used as a stand-alone graft.

So the team evaluated the safety and efficacy of NiCord alone in 36 adolescents/adults with high-risk hematologic malignancies.

Patients had acute myelogenous leukemia (n=17), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (n=9), myelodysplastic syndrome (n=7), chronic myelogenous leukemia (n=2), and Hodgkin lymphoma (n=1).

Most patients had intermediate (n=15) or high-risk (n=13) disease. They had a median age of 44 (range, 13-63) and a median weight of 75 kg (range, 41-125).


For conditioning, 19 patients received thiotepa, busulfan, and fludarabine. Fifteen patients received total body irradiation and fludarabine with or without cyclophosphamide or thiotepa. And 2 patients received clofarabine, fludarabine, and busulfan.

Most patients had a 4/6 human leukocyte antigen (HLA) match (n=26), 8 had a 5/6 HLA match, and 2 had a 6/6 HLA match.

The median total nucleated cell dose was 2.4 x 107/kg prior to expansion of the UCB unit and 3.7 x 107/kg after expansion. The median CD34+ cell dose was 0.2 x 106/kg and 6.3 x 106/kg, respectively.

“CD34 cells were expanded 33-fold in the 3-week culture system,” Dr Horwitz noted. “That translated to a median CD34 dose of 6.3 x 106/kg, a dose comparable to what would be obtained from an adult donor graft.”


There was 1 case of primary graft failure and 2 cases of secondary graft failure. One case of secondary graft failure was associated with an HHV-6 infection, and the other was due to a lethal adenovirus infection.

Of those patients who engrafted, 97% achieved full donor chimerism, and 3% had mixed chimerism.

Dr Horwitz and his colleagues compared engraftment results in the NiCord recipients to results in a cohort of patients from the CIBMTR registry who underwent UCB transplants from 2010 to 2013. They had similar characteristics as the NiCord patients—age, conditioning regimen, disease status, etc.

In total, there were 148 CIBMTR registry patients, 20% of whom received a single UCB unit.

The median time to neutrophil engraftment was 11.5 days (range, 6-26) with NiCord and 21 days in the CIBMTR matched control cohort (P<0.001). The cumulative incidence of neutrophil engraftment was 94.4% and 89.7%, respectively.

The median time to platelet engraftment was 34 days (range, 25-96) with NiCord and 46 days in the CIBMTR controls (P<0.001). The cumulative incidence of platelet engraftment was 80.6% and 67.1%, respectively.

“There’s a median 10-day reduction in neutrophil recovery [and] 12-day reduction in time to platelet recovery [with NiCord],” Dr Horwitz noted. “There is evidence of robust and durable engraftment with a NiCord unit, with one patient now over 7 years from his first transplant on the pilot trial.”

Relapse, survival, and GVHD

Dr Horwitz reported other outcomes in the NiCord recipients without making comparisons to the CIBMTR matched controls.

The estimated 2-year rate of non-relapse mortality in NiCord recipients was 23.8%, and the estimated 2-year incidence of relapse was 33.2%.

The estimated disease-free survival was 49.1% at 1 year and 43.0% at 2 years. The estimated overall survival was 51.2% at 1 year and 2 years.

At 100 days, the rate of grade 2-4 acute GVHD was 44.0%, and the rate of grade 3-4 acute GVHD was 11.1%.

The estimated 1-year rate of mild to severe chronic GVHD was 40.5%, and the estimated 2-year rate of moderate to severe chronic GVHD was 9.8%.

Dr Horwitz said these “promising results” have led to the launch of a phase 3 registration trial in which researchers are comparing NiCord to standard single or double UCB transplant. The trial is open for accrual.

*Information in the abstract differs from the presentation.

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