Excessive levels of B cell activating factor (BAFF) are found in patients with active chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD). In mice, BAFF has been shown to be essential for B cell recovery after myeloablation. To assess how BAFF levels relate to transplantation factors and subsequent development of cGVHD, we prospectively monitored 412 patients in the first year after allogeneic peripheral blood or bone marrow hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) and censored data at time of cGVHD onset. In patients who did not develop cGVHD, we affirmed a temporal pattern of gradually decreasing BAFF levels as B cell numbers increase after myeloablative conditioning. In contrast, after reduced-intensity conditioning, BAFF levels remained high throughout the first post-HSCT year, suggesting that the degree of myeloablation resulted in delayed B cell recovery associated with persistence of higher BAFF levels. Given that high BAFF/B cell ratios have been associated with active cGVHD, we examined differences in early BAFF/B cell ratios and found significantly different BAFF/B cell ratios at 3 months post-HSCT only after myeloablative conditioning in patients who subsequently developed cGVHD. In addition to HSCT conditioning type, the use of sirolimus was significantly associated with higher BAFF levels after HSCT, and this also was potentially related to lower B cell numbers. Taken together, our results are important for interpreting BAFF measurements in cGVHD biomarker studies.
Keywords: B cell; B cell activating factor; Chronic graft-versus-host disease.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.