PURPOSE: To eliminate the risk of rejection and lower the risk of relapse after T-cell-depleted bone marrow transplants in acute leukemia patients, we enhanced pretransplant immunosuppression and myeloablation. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Antithymocyte globulin and thiotepa were added to standard total-body irradiation/cyclophosphamide conditioning. Donor bone marrows were depleted ex vivo of T lymphocytes by soybean agglutination and E-rosetting. This approach was tested in 54 consecutive patients with acute leukemia who received transplants from HLA-identical sibling donors or, in two cases, from family donors mismatched at D-DR. No posttransplant immunosuppressive treatment was given as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) prophylaxis. RESULTS: Neither graft rejection nor GVHD occurred. Transplant-related deaths occurred in six (16.6%) of 36 patients in remission and in seven (38.8%) of 18 patients in relapse at the time of transplantation. The probability of relapse was .12 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0 to .19) for patients with acute myeloid leukemia and .28 (95% CI, .05 to .51) for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who received transplants at the first or second remission. At a median follow-up of 6.9 years (minimum follow-up, 4.9 years), event-free survival for patients who received transplants while in remission was .74 (95% CI, .54 to .93) for acute myeloid leukemia patients and .59 (95% CI, .35 to .82) for acute lymphoblastic leukemia patients. All surviving patients have 100% performance status. CONCLUSION: Adding antithymocyte globulin and thiotepa to the conditioning regimen prevents rejection of extensively T-cell-depleted bone marrow. Even in the complete absence of GVHD, the leukemia relapse rate is not higher than in unmanipulated transplants.
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