Outcomes After Donor Lymphocyte Infusion in Patients With Hematological Malignancies: Donor Characteristics Matter

Transplant Cell Ther. 2022 Apr;28(4):183.e1-183.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.jtct.2022.01.022. Epub 2022 Jan 31.


In the context of T-cell depletion, failing to achieve full donor chimerism (FDC) entails higher risk of graft loss and disease relapse. Donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI) is an adoptive immunotherapy for mixed chimerism (MC) or relapsed disease after reduced-intensity conditioning allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Nevertheless, little is known of factors associated with attaining FDC or disease remission. We carried out a retrospective study with 100 adult patients to identify patient and donor factors that can predict achievement of FDC and disease remission and describe complications after DLI. Indications for DLI were T-cell MC in 61 patients and relapsed disease in 39 patients. Forty patients (65.6%) with MC attained T-full donor chimerism (T-FDC), with higher responses seen in patients whose donors were female (81.5% versus 52.9%, P = .004) and cytomegalovirus negative (76.5% versus 52%, P = .004). However, only patients with younger donors (<30 years old) compared to older donors (94.4% versus 53.5%, P = .013) and those attaining unfractionated whole blood (UWB) FDC after DLI (76.6% versus 28.6%, P < .001) had a survival benefit and subsequently a better graft-versus-host disease (GvHD)-free/relapse-free survival. Nineteen of 39 patients (48.7%) with relapsed disease achieved remission after DLI. In this cohort, attaining T-FDC impacted favorably in disease control (76.7% versus 12.5%, P = .012) and improved survival (45.5% versus 12.5%, P = .007). In the whole population, the cumulative incidence of acute GvHD (aGvHD) at day 100 after DLI was 23%, and chronic GvHD (cGvHD) at 1 year after DLI was 22%. In the whole population, donor age was also a determining factor for aGvHD, because patients with younger donors had a lower incidence of aGvHD (8% versus 36%, P = .021). The cGvHD was more likely to occur in patients who converted to T-FDC (34% versus 10.3%, P = .025). Donor characteristics are increasingly considered when deciding approaches for HSCT. Donor age should be considered when planning HSCT, as well as doses and scheduling of DLI. As per our experience, this should be done alongside T/UWB chimerism to achieve the maximal clinical benefit with less associated toxicity. Selection of younger male donors from stem cell registries can minimize the risk of GvHD and improve survival.

Keywords: Donor lymphocyte infusion; Graft-versus-host disease; Graft-versus-tumor reactivity; Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; Immunotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hematologic Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive*
  • Lymphocyte Transfusion
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Retrospective Studies
  • T-Lymphocytes
  • Transplantation, Homologous