BACKGROUND: In this study we tried to achieve successful transplantation in patients with acute leukemia with the use of hematopoietic stem cells from donors who shared only one HLA haplotype with the recipient (a "full-haplotype mismatch"). To prevent graft failure, large doses of T-cell-depleted hematopoietic stem cells were transplanted after a conditioning regimen of enhanced myeloablation and immunosuppression was administered to the recipient. METHODS: Forty-three patients with high-risk acute leukemia who were scheduled for transplantation received total-body irradiation, thiotepa, fludarabine, and antithymocyte globulin. The graft consisted of peripheral-blood progenitor cells that had been mobilized in the donor with recombinant granulocyte colony-stimulating factor and also, in 28 cases, bone marrow. Bone marrow from the donor was depleted of T lymphocytes by processing with soybean agglutinin and E-rosetting. T-cell depletion of peripheral-blood mononuclear cells was achieved by E-rosetting followed by positive selection of CD34+ cells. No post-transplantation prophylaxis against graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) was administered. RESULTS: In all the patients, full donor-type engraftment was achieved. In none of the patients who could be evaluated did acute or chronic GVHD develop. Regimen-related toxicity was minimal. Eleven of the 23 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia had a relapse, as did 2 of the 20 patients with acute myeloid leukemia. Transplantation-related mortality was 40 percent. After a median follow-up of 18 months (range, 8 to 30), 12 of the 43 patients were alive and free of disease. All surviving patients had a good quality of life. CONCLUSIONS: The main limitations of transplantation of bone marrow from donors who are matched with the recipient for only one HLA haplotype GVHD and graft failure - can be overcome. Since most patients have a relative with one haplotype mismatch, advances in this method will increase the availability of hematopoietic-cell transplantation as curative therapy for acute leukemia.
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