Adoptive Immunotherapy with Cord Blood for the Treatment of Refractory Acute Myelogenous Leukemia: Feasibility, Safety, and Preliminary Outcomes

Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2019 Mar;25(3):466-473. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2018.11.002. Epub 2018 Nov 9.


Adoptive immunotherapy has shown efficacy in patients with relapsed/refractory acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). We conducted a prospective evaluation of cord blood (CB)-based adoptive cell therapy following salvage chemotherapy in patients with AML or myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and describe the safety and early outcomes of this approach. To enhance the antileukemic effect, we selected CB units (CBUs) with a shared inherited paternal antigen (IPA) and/or noninherited maternal antigen (NIMA) match with the recipients. Furthermore, the CBUs had total nucleated cell (TNC) dose <2.5 × 107/kg and were at least 4/6 HLA-matched with the patients; a higher allele-level match was preferred. Heavily pretreated adult patients with AML/MDS were enrolled. CBU searches were performed for 50 patients. CBUs with shared IPA targets were identified for all, and CBUs with NIMA matches were found for 80%. Twenty-one patients underwent treatment (AML, primary induction failure, n = 8; refractory relapse, n = 10, including 7 recipients of previous allogeneic HSCT; blast crisis chronic myelogenous leukemia, n = 1; MDS, n = 2). Most received combination chemotherapy; those not fit for intensive treatment received a hypomethylating agent. Response was defined as <10% residual blasts in hypocellular bone marrow at approximately 2 weeks after treatment. Ten of the 19 evaluable patients responded, including 5 of the 7 recipients of previous transplant. Response was seen in 4 of 4 patients with full CBU-derived chimerism, 2 of 2 of those with partial, low-level chimerism and 4 of 12 of the recipients with no detectable CBU chimerism. The most common adverse events were infections (bacterial, n = 5; viral, n = 2; fungal, n = 5). Grade IV acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) developed in 2 patients with full CBU chimerism; 2 other patients had grade 1 skin GVHD. A total of 11 patients died, 7 from disease recurrence and 4 from infections (1 early death; the other 3 in remission at the time of death). Overall, 12 patients proceeded to allogeneic HSCT; of those, 7 had responded to treatment, 3 had not (and had received additional therapy), and 2 had persistent minimal residual disease. In conclusion, the use of CB as adoptive immunotherapy in combination with salvage chemotherapy for patients with refractory AML/MDS is feasible, can induce disease control, can serve as a bridge to allogeneic HSCT, and has an acceptable incidence of adverse events. Alloreactivity was enhanced through the selection of CBUs targeting a shared IPA and/or NIMA match with the patients. CBUs with lower cell doses, already available in the CB bank and unlikely to be adequate grafts for adult transplants, can be used for cell therapy within a short time frame.

Keywords: Adoptive immunotherapy; Cell therapy; Cord blood; Refractory acute myelogenous leukemia.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chimerism
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / transplantation*
  • Graft vs Host Disease / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / adverse effects
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods*
  • Infections / etiology
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / complications
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / complications
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / therapy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Salvage Therapy
  • Treatment Outcome