Background: Because hepatitis C virus infection causes hepatic and immunological dysfunction, we hypothesized that seropositivity for this virus could be associated with increased non-relapse mortality after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
Design and methods: We performed a case-control study of the outcomes of patients who were hepatitis C virus seropositive at the time of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (N=31). Patients positive for hepatitis C virus were considered candidates for stem cell transplantation only if they had no significant evidence of hepatic dysfunction. Matched controls (N=31) were seronegative for viral hepatitides and were paired according to age, diagnosis, disease stage, conditioning regimen and donor type. We also compared the hepatitis C virus seropositive patients to all seronegative patients (all controls, N=1800) transplanted during the same period, to adjust for other confounding effects.
Results: The median age of the seropositive patients was 49 (range 26-72); 15 had acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome, 6 had chronic myeloid leukemia/myeloproliferative disease, 6 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, 2 myeloma, 1 acute lymphocytic leukemia and 1 Hodgkin's lymphoma; 61% had poor risk disease; 68% had related donors; 68% received reduced intensity conditioning; 7 patients had mildly abnormal alanine transaminase levels (all less than three times the upper limit of normal) and 1 patient had minimally elevated bilirubin. These characteristics were similar to those of the matched control group. Median overall survival was 3, 18 and 20 months, and 1-year survival was 29%, 56% and 56%, in the hepatitis C virus, matched and all controls groups, respectively (hazard ratio for death 3.1, 95% confidence interval 1.9-5.6, p<0.001 in multivariate analysis). Non-relapse mortality at 1 year was 43%, 24% and 23%, respectively (hazard ratio 3.3, 95% confidence interval 1.8-7.1, p<0.01). Disease progression and graft-versus-host disease rates were comparable.
Conclusions: Hepatitis C virus seropositivity is a significant risk factor for non-relapse mortality after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation even in patients with normal or minimally abnormal liver function tests.