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Bone Marrow Transplant. 2005 Feb;35(3):225-31.

Antilymphocyte/thymocyte globulin for graft versus host disease prophylaxis: efficacy and side effects.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Emato-Oncologia, Ospedale San Martino, Genova, Italy.


Antilymphocyte/thymocyte globulins (ALGs/ATGs) have now been used for over 30 years in the setting of hemopoietic stem cell transplants (HSCT), with the aim of preventing graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). This is true especially for transplants from alternative donors. In this review, we will be discussing available published and unpublished data on the advantages and disadvantages of using ALG/ATG before or after an allogeneic HSCT. These studies show that ALG/ATG significantly reduce the incidence and severity of acute and chronic GvHD. Unfortunately, they also show that immune deficiency is a more prolonged and infectious complication more frequent in patients receiving ALG/ATG, suggesting the importance of aggressive monitoring of viral and fungal infections. In particular, the emerging problem of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infections and EBV-related lymphoproliferative disorders will be discussed, together with the use of pre-emptive therapy with rituximab. I personally believe ALG/ATG has an important role in allogeneic HSCT, especially today with the increasing use of peripheral blood transplants and the consequent high risk of chronic GvHD. ALG/ATG should be used with caution, and the negative consequences must be understood and possibly prevented.

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