Patients with acute leukemia who are unable to achieve complete remission prior to allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (SCT) have dismal outcomes with relapse rates well in excess of 60%. Haplo-identical SCT (haplo-SCT) may allow enhanced graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effects by virtue of HLA class I/II donor-host disparities but typically requires intensive immune-suppression with post-transplant cyclophosphamide (PT-Cy) to prevent lethal graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Here we demonstrate in preclinical models that glucocorticoid administration from day -1 to +5 inhibits alloantigen presentation by professional recipient antigen presenting cells in the gastrointestinal tract and prevents donor T-cell priming and subsequent expansion therein. In contrast, direct glucocorticoid signaling of donor T-cells promotes chemokine and integrin signatures permissive of preferential circulation and migration into the bone marrow, promoting donor T-cell residency. This results in significant reductions in GVHD whilst promoting potent GVL effects (relapse in recipients receiving glucocorticoids, vehicle or PT-Cy was 12%, 56% and 100% respectively). Intriguingly, patients with acute myeloid leukemia not in remission that received unmanipulated haplo-SCT and peri-transplant glucocorticoids also had an unexpectedly low relapse rate at 1 year (32%: 95% CI, 18%-47%) with high overall survival at 3 years (58%: 95% CI, 38-74%). These data highlight a potentially simple and effective approach to prevent relapse in patients with otherwise incurable leukemia that could be studied in prospective randomized trials.
Takayuki Inoue, Motoko Koyama, Katsuji Kaida, Kazuhiro Ikegame, Kathleen S. Ensbey, Luke Samson, Shuichiro Takahashi, Ping Zhang, Simone A. Minnie, Satoshi Maruyama, Shinichi Ishii, Takashi Daimon, Takahiro Fukuda, Hirohisa Nakamae, Takahide Ara, Yumiko Maruyama, Ken Ishiyama, Tatsuo Ichinohe, Yoshiko Atsuta, Bruce R. Blazar, Scott N. Furlan, Hiroyasu Ogawa, Geoffrey R. Hill