Purpose: The role of antithymocyte globulin (ATG) in preventing acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) after HLA-matched sibling donor transplantation (MSDT) is still controversial.
Patients and methods: We performed a prospective, multicenter, open-label, randomized controlled trial (RCT) across 23 transplantation centers in China. Patients ages 40-60 years with standard-risk hematologic malignancies with an HLA-matched sibling donor were randomly assigned to an ATG group (4.5 mg/kg thymoglobulin plus cyclosporine [CsA], methotrexate [MTX], and mycophenolate mofetil [MMF]) and a control group (CsA, MTX, and MMF). The primary end point of this study was grade 2-4 aGVHD on day 100.
Results: From November 2013 to April 2018, 263 patients were enrolled. The cumulative incidence rate of grade 2-4 aGVHD was significantly reduced in the ATG group (13.7%; 95% CI, 13.5% to 13.9%) compared with the control group (27.0%; 95% CI, 26.7% to 27.3%; P = .007). The ATG group had significantly lower incidences of 2-year overall chronic GVHD (27.9% [95% CI, 27.6% to 28.2%] v 52.5% [95% CI, 52.1% to 52.9%]; P < .001) and 2-year extensive chronic GVHD (8.5% [95% CI, 8.4% to 8.6%] v 23.2% [95% CI, 22.9% to 23.5%]; P = .029) than the control group. There were no differences between the ATG and control groups with regard to cytomegalovirus reactivation, Epstein-Barr virus reactivation, 3-year nonrelapse mortality (NRM), 3-year cumulative incidence of relapse (CIR), 3-year overall survival, or 3-year leukemia-free survival. Three-year GVHD relapse-free survival was significantly improved in the ATG group (38.7%; 95% CI, 29.9% to 47.5%) compared with the control group (24.5%; 95% CI, 16.9% to 32.1%; P = .003).
Conclusion: Our study is the first prospective RCT in our knowledge to demonstrate that ATG can effectively decrease the incidence of aGVHD after MSDT in the CsA era without affecting the CIR or NRM.