Infusing natural killer (NK) cells following transplantation may allow less infections and relapse with little risk of acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD). We delivered 51 total NK cell-enriched donor lymphocyte infusions (DLIs) to 30 patients following a 3-6/6 HLA matched T cell-depleted nonmyeloablative allogeneic transplant. The primary endpoint of this study was feasibility and safety. Eight weeks following transplantation, donor NK cell-enriched DLIs were processed using a CD56(+) selecting column with up to 3 fresh infusions allowed. Toxicity, relapse, and survival were monitored. T cell phenotype, NK cell functional recovery, and KIR typing were assessed for association with outcomes. Fourteen matched and 16 mismatched transplanted patients received a total of 51 NK cell-enriched DLIs. Selection resulted in 96% (standard deviation [SD] 8%) purity and 83% (SD 21%) yield in the matched setting and 97% (SD 3%) purity and 77% (SD 24%) yield in the mismatched setting. The median number of CD3(-) CD56(+) NK cells infused was 10.6 (SD 7.91) x 10(6) cells/kg and 9.21 (SD 5.6) x 10(6) cells/kg, respectively. The median number of contaminating CD3(+)CD56(-) T cells infused was .53 (1.1) x 10(6) and .27 (.78) x 10(6) in the matched and mismatched setting, respectively. Only 1 patient each in the matched (n = 14) or mismatched (n = 16) setting experienced severe aGVHD with little other toxicity attributable to the infusions. Long-term responders with multiple NK cell-enriched infusions and improved T cell phenotypic recovery had improved duration of responses (p = .0045) and overall survival (OS) (P = .0058). A 1-step, high-yield process is feasible, and results in high doses of NK cells infused with little toxicity. NK cell-enriched DLIs result in improved immune recovery and outcomes for some. Future studies must assess whether the improved outcomes are the direct result of the high doses and improved NK cell function or other aspects of immune recovery.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00586690.