To prospectively validate the incidence, manifestations, and outcomes of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) by National Institutes of Health criteria, we recruited 406 hematopoietic stem cell transplantation recipients at 16 transplant centers in Japan from May 2012 to June 2014. The 2-year cumulative incidence of late acute and chronic GVHD was 3.2% (n = 13) and 35.4% (n = 145), with a median onset of 3.6 and 4.7 months after transplant, respectively. The global severity at onset was mild in 30.3%, moderate in 43.5%, and severe in 26.2%. Eighty-two patients were followed up for 2 years, with 79.3% still manifesting GVHD symptoms, and 80.6% (n = 117) of the patients received systemic immunosuppressive treatment (IST), with a 2-year cumulative incidence of IST termination of 33.1%. Severe patients showed a significantly lower rate of IST termination than those with mild and moderate severities (mild, 38.5%; moderate, 40.9%; and severe, 17.2%). The 2-year incidence of nonrelapse mortality (NRM) and relapse was not significantly different according to the severity at onset (NRM: mild [16.6%] versus moderate [8.7%] versus severe [16.1%]; relapse: mild [14.9%] versus moderate [14.7%] versus severe [5.3%]). As a result, 2-year overall survival (OS) and GVHD-specific survival (GSS) were equivalent according to the severity at onset (mild: OS = 81.0%, GSS = 85.7%; moderate: OS = 84.2%, GSS = 92.5%; severe: OS = 83.9%, GSS = 89.2%). Our study helped identify the characteristics of late acute and chronic GVHD in Japanese patients. Further investigation is needed to identify an optimal endpoint for survival prediction.
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