Assessment of Individual versus Composite Endpoints of Acute Graft-versus-Host Disease in Determining Long-Term Survival after Allogeneic Transplantation

Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2019 Aug;25(8):1682-1688. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2019.01.024. Epub 2019 Jan 30.


The overall composite of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD)-free, relapse-free survival (GRFS), defined as survival free of grade III-IV acute GVHD (aGVHD), chronic GVHD (cGVHD) requiring systemic immunosuppressive therapy (IST), or relapse, has emerged as a useful composite in clinical trials and to capture clinically meaningful events that impact quantity and quality of survival after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). We reviewed 565 consecutive patients aged ≥18 years undergoing HCT for hematologic malignancy to analyze how baseline incidence, specifics of clinical definitions, and proposed reductions in any one individual event may dynamically alter the overall performance of the composite To determine the relative impact of each GRFS event (excluding death), we accounted for competing risks using Fine and Gray methods, and correlated each event with overall survival (OS) using Kaplan-Meier methods. The consequences of modulating individual or composite endpoints on OS, such as hypothesized reductions of events of an HCT interventional trial, were examined using Monte Carlo simulations. The median age of the cohort was 54 years (range, 18 to 73 years). The majority of patients received HLA-matched unrelated donor HCT (53%), consisting of peripheral blood stem cell grafts (90%) after myeloablative conditioning (68%). Relapse conferred the greatest risk for death (hazard ratio [HR], 7.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 5.83 to 10.69), followed by grade III-IV aGVHD (HR, 6.16; 95% CI, 4.42 to 8.56) and cGVHD requiring IST (HR, 1.69; 95% CI, 1.16 to 2.46). The overall GRFS composite correlated with an HR of 4.81 (95% CI, 3.61 to 6.41), which was lower compared with either relapse or grade III-IV aGVHD. Statistical simulations found that modulating the combined risk of both relapse and grade III-IV aGVHD predicted the greatest change in 5-year OS. These simulations suggest that GRFS as currently defined may be less optimal for correlating with OS, and further refinement of composite endpoints is needed. Nonetheless, composite endpoints may be particularly helpful in mitigating potential difficulties in interpretation when competing risks are present, most commonly seen in HCT studies.

Keywords: Composite endpoints; GRFS; GVHD; GVHD-free relapse-free survival.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Allografts
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Graft vs Host Disease* / etiology
  • Graft vs Host Disease* / mortality
  • Graft vs Host Disease* / therapy
  • Hematologic Neoplasms* / mortality
  • Hematologic Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate