We conducted a multicenter phase I/II study using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) manufactured from the bone marrow of healthy unrelated volunteers to treat steroid-refractory acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD). Fourteen patients with hematological malignancies who suffered from grade II (9 patients) or III aGVHD (5) were treated. Affected organs were gut (10 patients), skin (9 patients), and liver (3 patients). Seven patients had two involved organs. The median age was 52. No other second-line agents were given. MSCs were given at a dose of 2 × 106 cells/kg for each infusion twice a week for 4 weeks. If needed, patients were continuously given MSCs weekly for an additional 4 weeks. By week 4, 13 of 14 patients (92.9 %) had responded to MSC therapy with a complete response (CR; n = 8) or partial response (PR; n = 5). At 24 weeks, 11 patients (10 with CR and 1 with PR) were alive. At 96 weeks, 8 patients were alive in CR. A total of 6 patients died, attributable to the following: underlying disease relapse (2 patients), breast cancer relapse (1), veno-occlusive disease (1), ischemic cholangiopathy (1), and pneumonia (1). No clear adverse effects associated with MSC infusion were observed. Third party-derived bone marrow MSCs may be safe and effective for patients with steroid-refractory aGVHD.
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