Background: Successful allogeneic bone marrow transplantation relies on global immunosuppression or elimination of T cells. In contrast, the induction of anergy can inactivate specific sets of alloreactive T cells in the donor marrow. Previous work has shown that anergy can be induced by blocking the interaction of the B7 molecule on the surface of antigen-presenting cells with the CD28 molecule on the surface of T cells, thus preventing key signaling events essential for the activation of T cells. To investigate the feasibility of this approach with respect to transplantation of histoincompatible bone marrow, we undertook a clinical trial of ex vivo induction of anergy in T cells present in donor marrow to recipient alloantigens.
Methods: Outcomes in 12 transplant recipients were evaluated. The recipients' peripheral-blood lymphocytes were collected before myeloablation and served as alloantigen-presenting cells. To induce alloantigen-specific anergy, bone marrow from a donor mismatched with the recipient for one HLA haplotype was cocultured with irradiated cells from the recipient for 36 hours in the presence of CTLA-4-Ig, an agent that inhibits B7:CD28-mediated costimulation. After conventional myeloablation and immunoprophylaxis, the treated donor cells were transfused into the recipient.
Results: After the induction of anergy, the frequency of T cells capable of recognizing alloantigens of the recipient in donor marrow was sharply reduced (P<0.001), whereas the responsiveness to alloantigens from persons unrelated to the recipient or the donor was unaffected (P=0.51). In the 11 patients who could be evaluated, the haploidentical bone marrow cells engrafted. Of these 11 patients, 3 had acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) confined to the gastrointestinal tract. No deaths were attributable to GVHD. Five of the 12 patients were alive and in remission 4.5 to 29 months after transplantation.
Conclusions: Donor bone marrow treated ex vivo to induce anergy to alloantigens from the recipient can reconstitute hematopoiesis in vivo with a relatively low risk of GVHD.