Phase II Trial of Costimulation Blockade With Abatacept for Prevention of Acute GVHD

J Clin Oncol. 2021 Jun 10;39(17):1865-1877. doi: 10.1200/JCO.20.01086. Epub 2021 Jan 15.


Purpose: Severe (grade 3-4) acute graft-versus-host disease (AGVHD) is a major cause of death after unrelated-donor (URD) hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT), resulting in particularly high mortality after HLA-mismatched transplantation. There are no approved agents for AGVHD prevention, underscoring the critical unmet need for novel therapeutics. ABA2 was a phase II trial to rigorously assess safety, efficacy, and immunologic effects of adding T-cell costimulation blockade with abatacept to calcineurin inhibitor (CNI)/methotrexate (MTX)-based GVHD prophylaxis, to test whether abatacept could decrease AGVHD.

Methods: ABA2 enrolled adults and children with hematologic malignancies under two strata: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled stratum (8/8-HLA-matched URD), comparing CNI/MTX plus abatacept with CNI/MTX plus placebo, and a single-arm stratum (7/8-HLA-mismatched URD) comparing CNI/MTX plus abatacept versus CNI/MTX CIBMTR controls. The primary end point was day +100 grade 3-4 AGVHD, with day +180 severe-AGVHD-free-survival (SGFS) a key secondary end point. Sample sizes were calculated using a higher type-1 error (0.2) as recommended for phase II trials, and were based on predicting that abatacept would reduce grade 3-4 AGVHD from 20% to 10% (8/8s) and 30% to 10% (7/8s). ABA2 enrolled 142 recipients (8/8s, median follow-up = 716 days) and 43 recipients (7/8s, median follow-up = 708 days).

Results: In 8/8s, grade 3-4 AGVHD was 6.8% (abatacept) versus 14.8% (placebo) (P = .13, hazard ratio = 0.45). SGFS was 93.2% (CNI/MTX plus abatacept) versus 82% (CNI/MTX plus placebo, P = .05). In the smaller 7/8 cohort, grade 3-4 AGVHD was 2.3% (CNI/MTX plus abatacept, intention-to-treat population), which compared favorably with a nonrandomized matched cohort of CNI/MTX (30.2%, P < .001), and the SGFS was better (97.7% v 58.7%, P < .001). Immunologic analysis revealed control of T-cell activation in abatacept-treated patients.

Conclusion: Adding abatacept to URD HCT was safe, reduced AGVHD, and improved SGFS. These results suggest that abatacept may substantially improve AGVHD-related transplant outcomes, with a particularly beneficial impact on HLA-mismatched HCT.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abatacept / therapeutic use*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Graft vs Host Disease / prevention & control*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Tacrolimus / therapeutic use
  • Young Adult


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Abatacept
  • Cyclosporine
  • Tacrolimus
  • Methotrexate