Thymic recovery after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation with non-myeloablative conditioning is limited to patients younger than 60 years of age

University of Liège, Department of Hematology, CHU Sart-Tilman, 4000 Liège, Belgium.
Haematologica (Impact Factor: 5.81). 10/2010; 96(2):298-306. DOI: 10.3324/haematol.2010.029702
Source: PubMed


Long-term immune recovery in older patients given hematopoietic cell transplantation after non-myeloablative conditioning remains poorly understood. This prompted us to investigate long-term lymphocyte reconstitution and thymic function in 80 patients given allogeneic peripheral blood stem cells after non-myeloablative conditioning.
Median age at transplant was 57 years (range 10-71). Conditioning regimen consisted of 2 Gy total body irradiation (TBI) with (n=46) or without (n=20) added fludarabine, 4 Gy TBI with fludarabine (n=6), or cyclophosphamide plus fludarabine (n=8). Stem cell sources were unmanipulated (n=56), CD8-depleted (n=19), or CD34-selected (n=5) peripheral blood stem cells. Immune recovery was assessed by signal-joint T-cell receptor excision circle quantification and flow cytometry.
Signal-joint T-cell receptor excision circle levels increased from day 100 to one and two years after transplantation in patients under 50 years of age (n=23; P=0.02 and P=0.04, respectively), and in those aged 51-60 years (n=35; P=0.17 and P=0.06, respectively), but not in patients aged over 60 (n=22; P=0.3 and P=0.3, respectively). Similarly, CD4(+)CD45RA(+) (naïve) T-cell counts increased from day 100 to one and two years after transplantation in patients aged 50 years and under 50 (P=0.002 and P=0.02, respectively), and in those aged 51-60 (P=0.4 and P=0.001, respectively), but less so in patients aged over 60 (P=0.3 and P=0.06, respectively). In multivariate analyses, older patient age (P<0.001), extensive chronic GVHD (P<0.001), and prior (resolved) extensive chronic graft-versus-host disease (P=0.008) were associated with low signal-joint T-cell receptor excision circle levels one year or more after HCT.
In summary, our data suggest that thymic neo-generation of T cells occurred from day 100 onwards in patients under 60 while signal-joint T-cell receptor excision circle levels remained low for patients aged over 60. Further, chronic graft-versus-host disease had a dramatic impact on thymic function, as observed previously in patients given grafts after myeloablative conditioning.

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