We performed a prospective randomized, double-blind study to assess the efficacy of selective depletion of CD8+ bone marrow cells in preventing acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in 38 patients undergoing HLA- identical sibling donor bone marrow transplantation for leukemia. All patients received CsA for GVHD prophylaxis. Nineteen patients received marrow depleted of CD8+ cells by ex vivo treatment with anti-leu2, an anti-CD8 mAb and complement; four patients had moderate (grade 1 or 2 acute GVHD) and the only patient who experienced grade 3 manifestations was a technical failure. The control group consisted of 19 patients who received unmodified bone marrow; one patient had grade 1, 4 patients had grade 2, and 10 had grade 3 or 4 acute GVHD. The actuarial incidence of grade ≥ 2 acute GVHD was 20±20% in the CD8-depleted group compared with 80±18% in the controls (P=0.004). Death in 5 of the control patients and the single patient in whom CD8 depletion was a technical failure was related to acute GVHD. Graft failure occurred in 2 patients in the CD8-depleted group and in none of the controls. Leukemic relapse occurred in 2 patients receiving CD8-depleted bone marrow and 2 patients in the control group. Seven patients receiving marrow depleted of CD8+ cells are alive and free of leukemia and 9 patients in the control group are alive, 7 of whom remain leukemia-free (P=0.88). The 3-year actuarial leukemia-free survival is 37±22% of the CD8-depleted group and 36±22% for the control group. These results indicate that selective depletion of CD8+ cells from the bone marrow significantly reduces the incidence and severity of acute GVHD.
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