Optimal Active Anti-Thymocyte Globulin Exposure Associated with Minimum Risk of Virus Reactivation and Comparable Acute Graft-Versus-Host Disease Under Adult Myeloablative Haploidentical Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation

Transplant Cell Ther. 2022 Jun;28(6):332.e1-332.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.jtct.2022.03.018. Epub 2022 Mar 18.


Anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) is often included in the conditioning regimen to prevent graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). However, the risk of virus reactivation increases significantly. We conducted a single-center prospective study to identify the optimal ATG exposure that ensures engraftment, effectively prevents acute GVHD, and reduces the risk of virus reactivation without increasing relapse of malignant diseases in haploidentical peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (haplo-PBSCT). From September 2018 to June 2020, 106 patients (median age, 32 years) with malignant hematological diseases who received haplo-PBSCT for the first time were enrolled. All patients received 10 mg/kg rabbit ATG (thymoglobulin) divided for 4 days (days -5 to -2). Pre-transplant, post-transplant, and total areas under the concentration-time curve (AUCs) of active ATG were calculated. Total AUC of active ATG was shown to be the best predictor for virus reactivation and acute GVHD of grades II to IV or grades III and IV. The optimal total AUC range of active ATG was 100 to 148.5 UE/mL/day. The median time was 14 versus 13 days (P = .184) for neutrophil engraftment and 13 versus 13 days (P = .263) for platelet engraftment in the optimal and non-optimal AUC groups, respectively. The optimal AUC group showed a lower cumulative incidence of cytomegalovirus (CMV) reactivation and persistent CMV viremia than the non-optimal AUC group: 60.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 48.3%-73.1%) versus 77.1% (95% CI, 64.5%-87.7%; P = .016) and 31.5% (95% CI, 21.2%-45.3%) versus 56.3% (95% CI, 42.9%-70.4%; P = .007), respectively. The cumulative incidence of persistent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) viremia in the optimal AUC group was significantly lower than the non-optimal total AUC group: 33.1% (95% CI, 22.5%-46.8%) versus 52.6% (95% CI, 39.3%-67.2%; P = .048). However, there was no difference in EBV reactivation (P = .752). Similar outcomes were observed for grade II to IV and grade III and IV acute GVHD between the two groups: 48.6% (95% CI, 36.8%-62.0%) versus 37.0% (95% CI, 24.8%-52.5%; P = .113) and 10.4% (95% CI, 4.8%-21.7%) versus 4.2% (95% CI, 1.0%-15.6%; P = .234, respectively. Relapse, non-relapse mortality, and disease-free survival demonstrated no significant differences between the two groups. But, overall survival at 2 years tended to increase in the optimal AUC group: 75.7% (95% CI, 62.4%-84.8%) versus 57.8% (95% CI, 42.4%-70.4%; P = .061). These data support an optimal active ATG exposure of 110 to 148.5 UE/mL/day in haplo-PBSCT. Individualized dosing of ATG in allo-HCT might reduce the risk of virus reactivation and effectively prevent acute GVHD simultaneously.

Keywords: Acute GVHD; Anti-thymocyte globulin; Area under curve; Haploidentical hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; Virus reactivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antilymphocyte Serum / therapeutic use
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections* / complications
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections* / complications
  • Graft vs Host Disease* / prevention & control
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / complications
  • Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rabbits
  • Viremia / epidemiology


  • Antilymphocyte Serum