Purpose: Treatment options for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) who relapse after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) are limited. Treatment with lymphocytes from the original marrow donor and the influence on the malignant clone was studied in these patients.
Patients and methods: Seven patients with CML that had relapsed after BMT with T-cell-depleted grafts were treated. Six patients received leukocyte infusions from the original marrow donor. One patient received a second BMT with unseparated marrow from the same sibling donor. Chimerism was studied using erythrocyte and cytogenetic markers. Residual leukemic cells were monitored by cytogenetic analysis of the Philadelphia (Ph) chromosome and by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of the breakpoint cluster region/Abelson (BCR-ABL) fusion gene.
Results: In five patients with hematologic relapse, the Ph chromosome disappeared 1 to 3 months after the leukocyte infusions. Cytogenetic analysis and in situ hybridization (ISH) showed only donor cells during further follow-up. Four to five patients became negative for the BCR-ABL translocation by PCR. Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) always preceded response and was severe in two patients. One patient with cytogenetic relapse showed no response after leukocyte infusions. GVHD after second BMT was of moderate severity. One year after second BMT, PCR for the BCR-ABL translocation was negative.
Conclusion: Infusion of donor leukocytes is an effective treatment with a low mortality in patients with CML relapsed after BMT with a T-cell-depleted graft. Longer follow-up and more patients will be needed to know whether cure will be permanent.