Chronic graft-versus-host disease in 52 patients: Adverse natural course and successful treatment with combination immunosuppression
Fifty-two of 175 (30%) survivors of allogenic marrow transplantation developed chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Five with limited chronic GVHD had an indolent clinical course with involvement of only the skin and liver. Forty-seven with extensive chronic GVHD had an unfavorable multiorgan disorder that resembled several autoimmune diseases. Thirteen patients with extensive disease (group I) were not treated and only 2 survive with Karnofsky scores ≥70%. Mortality resulted from infections and morbidity from sicca syndrome, pulmonary and hepatic insufficiency, scleroderma-like skin disease, and contractures. Another 13 (group II) received a median of 8 mo prednisone and/or a brief course of antithymocyte globulin, and 3 survive without disability. The other 21 (group III) were treated with a combination of prednisone (1.0 mg/kg/q.o.d.) and either cyclophosphamide, procarbazine, or azathioprine (all 1.5 mg/kg/day) for a median of 13 mo. Combination therapy was well tolerated with only modest myelotoxicity. Fifteen in group III had a good and 4 a fair response to treatment while 2 with no response died. Azathioprine and prednisone was the most effective regimen. All therapy has been discontinued in 12 group III patients: GVHD returned in 5 (including 2 who died in spite of retreatment) while 7 remain free of GVHD for a median of 11 (range 6-30) mo observation. Only 1 group III survivor is disabled and 16 of the original 21 are alive 2-4 yr after transplant with Karnofsky scores of 70%-100%. Thus, combination immunosuppression appears to favorably affect and, in some cases, permanently arrest the adverse natural course of extensive chronic GVHD.
Sullivan, KM; Shulman, HM; Storb, R; Weiden, PL; Witherspoon, RP; McDonald, GB; Schubert, MM; Atkinson, K; Thomas, ED
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