Antileukemic effect of graft-versus-host disease in human recipients of allogeneic-marrow grafts

N Engl J Med. 1979 May 10;300(19):1068-73. doi: 10.1056/NEJM197905103001902.


To determine whether allogeneic bone-marrow transplantation is associated with a graft-versus-leukemia effect, we examined the relation between relapse of leukemia and graft-versus-host disease in 46 recipients of identical-twin (syngeneic) marrow, 117 recipients of HLA-identical-sibling (allogeneic) marrow with no or minimal graft-versus-host disease, and 79 recipients of allogeneic marrow with moderate to severe or chronic disease. The relative relapse rate was 2.5 times less in allogeneic-marrow recipients with graft-versus-host disease than in recipients without it (P less than 0.01). This apparent antileukemic effect was more marked in patients with lymphoblastic than nonlymphoblastic leukemia, and in those who received transplants during relapse rather than during remission, and was most evident during the first 130 days after transplantation. Survival of all patients was comparable since the lesser probability of recurrent leukemia in patients with graft-versus-host disease was offset by a greater probability of other causes of death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation*
  • Female
  • Graft vs Host Reaction*
  • HLA Antigens
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / immunology
  • Leukemia / mortality
  • Leukemia / therapy*
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / mortality
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Probability
  • Prognosis
  • Recurrence
  • Remission, Spontaneous
  • Transplantation, Homologous
  • Transplantation, Isogeneic
  • Twins


  • HLA Antigens