Use of the HLA-B leader to optimize cord blood transplantation

Haematologica. 2021 Dec 1;106(12):3107-3114. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2020.264424.


Cord-blood transplantation (CBT) can cure life-threatening blood disorders. The HLA-B leader affects the success of unrelated donor transplantation but its role in CBT is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that the HLA-B leader influences CBT outcomes in unrelated single-unit cord-blood transplants performed by Eurocord/European Blood and Marrow Transplant (EBMT) centers between 1990 and 2018 with data reported to Eurocord. Among 4822 transplants, 2178 had one HLA-B mismatch of which 1013 were HLA-A and HLA-DRB1-matched. The leader (M or T) was determined for each HLA-B allele in patients and units to define the genotype. Among single HLA-B-mismatched transplants, the patient/unit mismatched alleles were defined as leader-matched if they encoded the same leader, or leader-mismatched if they encoded different leaders; the leader encoded by the matched (shared) allele was determined. The risks of GVHD, relapse, non-relapse mortality and overall mortality were estimated for various leaderdefined groups using multivariable regression models. Among the 1013 HLA-A, -DRB1- matched transplants with one HLA-B mismatch, increasing numbers of cord-blood unit M-leader alleles was associated with increased risk of relapse (hazard ratio [HR] for each increase in one M-leader allele 1.30, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.05 to 1.60, P 0.02). Furthermore, leader mismatching together with an M-leader of the shared HLA-B allele lowered non-relapse mortality (HR 0.44, 95% CI 0.23 to 0.81; P 0.009) relative to leader-matching and a shared T-leader allele. The HLA-B leader may inform relapse and non-relapse mortality risk after CBT. Future patients might benefit from the appropriate selection of units that consider the leader.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Graft vs Host Disease* / etiology
  • HLA-B Antigens / genetics
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Histocompatibility Testing
  • Humans
  • Unrelated Donors


  • HLA-B Antigens
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains