Donor Killer Immunoglobulin Receptor Gene Content and Ligand Matching and Outcomes of Pediatric Patients with Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia Following Unrelated Donor Transplantation

Transplant Cell Ther. 2021 Nov;27(11):926.e1-926.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.jtct.2021.08.009. Epub 2021 Aug 15.


Natural killer (NK) cell determinants predict relapse-free survival after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) for acute myelogenous leukemia, and previous studies have shown a beneficial graft-versus-leukemia effect in patients with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). However, whether NK cell determinants predict protection against relapse for JMML patients undergoing HCT is unknown. Therefore, we investigated NK cell-related donor and recipient immunogenetics as determinants of HCT outcomes in patients with JMML. Patients with JMML (age 0 to <19 years) who underwent a first allogeneic HCT from an unrelated donor between 2000 and 2017 and had available donor samples from the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research Repository were included. Donor killer immunoglobulin receptor (KIR) typing was performed on pre-HCT samples. The primary endpoint was disease-free survival (DFS); secondary endpoints included relapse, grade II-IV acute graft versus-host-disease (aGVHD), chronic GVHD (cGVHD), GVHD-free relapse-free survival, transplantation-related mortality, and overall survival (OS). Donor KIR models tested included KIR genotype (AA versus Bx), B content (0-1 versus ≥2), centromeric and telomeric region score (AA versus AB versus BB), B content score (best, better, or neutral), composite score (2 versus 3 versus 4), activating KIR content, and the presence of KIR2DS4. Ligand-ligand and KIR-ligand mismatch effects on outcomes were analyzed in HLA-mismatched donors (≤7/8; n = 74) only. Univariate analyses were performed for primary and secondary outcomes of interest, with a P value <.05 considered significant. One hundred sixty-five patients (113 males), with a median follow-up of 85 months (range, 6 to 216 months) met the study criteria. Of these, 111 underwent an unrelated donor HCT and 54 underwent a UCB HCT. Almost all (n = 161; 98%) received a myeloablative conditioning regimen. After exclusion of recipients of reduced-intensity/nonmyeloablative conditioning regimens and ex vivo T cell-depleted grafts (n = 8), there were 42 AA donors and 115 Bx donors, respectively. Three-year DFS, OS, relapse, and GRFS for the entire cohort were 58% (95% confidence interval [CI], 50% to 66%), 67% (95% CI, 59% to 74%), 26% (95% CI, 19% to 33%), and 27% (95% CI, 19% to 35%), respectively. The cumulative incidence of grade II-IV aGVHD at 100 days was 36% (95% CI, 27% to 44%), and that of cGVHD at 1 year was 23% (95% CI, 17% to 30%). There were no differences between AA donors and Bx donors for any recipient survival outcomes. The risk of grade II-IV aGVHD was lower in patients with donors with a B content score of ≥2 (hazard ratio [HR], 0.46; 95% CI, 0.26 to 0.83; P = .01), an activating KIR content score of >3 (HR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.29 to 0.95; P = .032), centromeric A/B score (HR, 0.57; 95% CI, 033 to 0.98; P = .041), and telomeric A/B score (HR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.34 to 1.00; P = .048). To our knowledge, this is the first study analyzing the association of NK cell determinants and outcomes in JMML HCT recipients. This study identifies potential benefits of donor KIR-B genotypes in reducing aGVHD. Our findings warrant further study of the role of NK cells in enhancing the graft-versus-leukemia effect via recognition of JMML blasts.

Keywords: HCT outcomes; JMML; NK-KIR determinants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Graft vs Host Disease*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myelomonocytic, Juvenile* / genetics
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Transplantation Conditioning
  • Unrelated Donors
  • Young Adult


  • Ligands