Targeted busulfan-based reduced-intensity conditioning and HLA-matched HSCT cure hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis

Blood Adv. 2020 May 12;4(9):1998-2010. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2020001748.


Reduced-intensity/reduced-toxicity conditioning and allogeneic T-cell replete hematopoietic stem cell transplantation are curative in patients with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). Unstable donor chimerism (DC) and relapses are clinical challenges . We examined the effect of a reduced-intensity conditioning regimen based on targeted busulfan to enhance myeloid DC in HLH. The European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation-approved reduced-intensity conditioning protocol comprised targeted submyeloablative IV busulfan, IV fludarabine, and serotherapy comprising IV alemtuzumab (0.5-0.8 mg/kg) for unrelated-donor and IV rabbit anti-T-cell globulin for related-donor transplants. We assessed toxicity, engraftment, graft-versus-host disease (GHVD), DC in blood cell subtypes, and overall survival/event-free survival. Twenty-five patients from 7 centers were treated (median age, 0.68 year). The median total dose and cumulative area under the curve of busulfan was 13.1 mg/kg (6.4-26.4) and 63.1 mg/L × h (48-77), respectively. Bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cell, or cord blood transplants from HLA-matched related (n = 7) or unrelated (n = 18) donors were administered. Donor cells engrafted in all patients (median: neutrophils d+20/platelets d+28). At last follow-up (median, 36 months; range, 8-111 months), the median DC of CD15+ neutrophils, CD3+ T cells, and CD16+56+ natural killer cells was 99.5% (10-100), 97% (30-100), and 97.5% (30-100), respectively. Eight patients (32%) developed sinusoidal obstruction syndrome, resolving after defibrotide treatment. The 3-year overall survival and event-free survival rates were both 100%. None of the patients developed acute grade III to IV GHVD. Limited chronic GVHD was encountered in 4%. This regimen achieves excellent results with stable DC in patients with HLH.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Busulfan
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Lymphohistiocytosis, Hemophagocytic* / therapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Rabbits
  • Transplantation Conditioning


  • Busulfan