Cellular Therapy During COVID-19: Lessons Learned and Preparing for Subsequent Waves

Transplant Cell Ther. 2021 May;27(5):438.e1-438.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.jtct.2021.02.011. Epub 2021 Feb 14.


An evidence-based triage plan for cellular therapy distribution is critical in the face of emerging constraints on healthcare resources. We evaluated the impact of treatment delays related to COVID-19 on patients scheduled to undergo hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy at our center. Data were collected in real time between March 19 and May 11, 2020, for patients who were delayed to cellular therapy. We evaluated the proportion of delayed patients who ultimately received cellular therapy, reasons for not proceeding to cellular therapy, and changes in disease and health status during delay. A total of 85 patients were delayed, including 42 patients planned for autologous HCT, 36 patients planned for allogeneic HCT, and 7 patients planned for CAR-T therapy. Fifty-six of these patients (66%) since received planned therapy. Five patients died during the delay. The most common reason for not proceeding to autologous HCT was good disease control in patients with plasma cell dyscrasias (75%). The most common reason for not proceeding to allogeneic HCT was progression of disease (42%). All patients with acute leukemia who progressed had measurable residual disease (MRD) at the time of delay, whereas no patient without MRD at the time of delay progressed. Six patients (86%) ultimately received CAR-T therapy, including 3 patients who progressed during the delay. For patients with high-risk disease such as acute leukemia, and particularly those with MRD at the time of planned HCT, treatment delay can result in devastating outcomes and should be avoided if at all possible.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cellular therapy; Chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy; Hematopoietic cell transplantation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Allografts
  • Amyloidosis / therapy
  • Anemia, Aplastic / therapy
  • COVID-19* / complications
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / transmission
  • Civil Defense
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Disease Progression
  • Evidence-Based Practice / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive*
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Professional-to-Patient
  • Leukemia / mortality
  • Leukemia / pathology
  • Leukemia / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelodysplastic-Myeloproliferative Diseases / mortality
  • Myelodysplastic-Myeloproliferative Diseases / therapy
  • Neoplasm, Residual
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Pandemics*
  • Resource Allocation
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Time-to-Treatment* / statistics & numerical data
  • Transplantation, Autologous
  • Triage / organization & administration
  • Young Adult