Within the concept of reduced-intensity stem cell transplantation (RIST) there is a wide range of different regimens used, and little information is available on the clinical impact of chimerism status in patients conditioned with a busulfan-containing regimen. Therefore, we retrospectively reviewed lineage-specific chimerism and the subsequent clinical outcome in 117 patients (median age, 55 years; range: 29-68) who underwent busulfan-containing RIST. The conditioning regimen consisted of busulfan (oral 8 mg/kg or i.v. 6.4 mg/kg) and fludarabine (180 mg/m2, n = 64) or cladribine (0.66 mg/kg, n = 53), with or without 2-4 Gy total-body irridiation (TBI) (n = 26) or antihuman T-lymphocyte immunoglobulin (ATG; 5-10 mg/kg; n = 31). Chimerism was evaluated with peripheral blood samples taken on days 30, 60, and 90 after transplantation by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based amplification of polymorphic short tandem repeat regions. The median follow-up of surviving patients was 1039 days (153-2535). The percent donor-chimerism was significantly higher in granulocyte than T cell fraction throughout the entire course, and the median (mean) values were, respectively, 100% (96%) versus 95% (83%), 100% (98%) versus 100% (89%), and 100% (98%) versus 100% (91%) at days 30, 60, and 90 after RIST. In a multivariate analysis, having received <2 types of chemotherapy regimens before RIST was the only factor that was significantly associated with low donor T cell chimerism (<60%) at day 30 (hazard ratio [HR]: 6.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.1-18.4; P < .01). The median percentage of donor T cell chimerism at day 30 was 9% (0%-63%) in 5 patients who experienced graft failure, which was significantly lower than that (97%; 15%-100%) in the rest of the patients (P < .01). No correlation was found between the kinetics of T cell chimerism and the occurrence of acute or chronic GVHD (aGVHD, cGVHD). The stem cell source and the addition of TBI or ATG were not associated with the degree of T cell chimerism, overall survival (OS) or event-free survival (EFS). In a Cox proportional hazard model, low donor T cell chimerism of <60% at day 30 was associated with both poor OS (HR: 2.2; 95% CI, 1.1-4.5; P = .02) and EFS (HR: 2.0; 95% CI, 1.1-3.8; P = .02). In conclusion, we found that 43% of the patients retained mixed donor T cell chimerism (<90% donor) at day 30, whereas 92% achieved complete chimerism in granulocyte fraction. Low donor T cell chimerism of <60% at day 30 may predict a poor outcome, and a prospective study to examine the value of early intervention based on chimerism data is warranted.
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