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Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2003 Jul;9(7):460-71.

Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of anti-thymocyte globulin in recipients of partially HLA-matched blood hematopoietic progenitor cell transplantation.

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Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University, 1701 Uppergate Dr, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Polyclonal anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) administered before allogeneic blood hematopoietic progenitor cell transplantation reduces the risks of graft rejection and graft-versus-host disease, but may delay posttransplant immune reconstitution caused by delayed clearance of ATG from the blood. We studied graft-versus-host disease, infections, and the kinetics of immune reconstitution in 28 patients with very poor-risk hematologic malignancies who received lymphocyte-depleted, CD34(+) cell-enriched hematopoietic progenitor cell grafts from partially HLA-matched related donors (PMRD). The incidence of these clinical events was correlated with blood ATG levels in 19 transplant recipients who received rabbit ATG (r-ATG, thymoglobulin) during conditioning. Total r-ATG and the fraction of ATG antibodies that bind human cells (active ATG) were measured for up to 45 days posttransplantation using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and flow cytometry assays. Three patients received equine ATG (e-ATG; total dose of 60 mg/kg/day), 3 patients received 10 mg/kg r-ATG, and 22 patients received 6 mg/kg r-ATG during conditioning. All evaluable patients engrafted. Median numbers of blood CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells at 100 days posttransplantation were 15 and 8 cells/microL, respectively. Acute graft-versus-host disease developed in 3 of 3 recipients of e-ATG and 1 of 25 recipients of r-ATG. Rapid T-cell reconstitution was seen only in younger patients. Overall mortality was 93% (26/28 patients) with poor immune reconstitution contributing to death in 21 of 28 patients. Recipients of 6 mg/kg r-ATG had peak levels of total and active r-ATG of 64+/-20 microg/mL and 9.2+/-5.8 microg/mL, respectively, with clearance of active r-ATG (t(1/2)6 days) to sub-therapeutic levels (<1 microg/mL) by a median of 15 days posttransplantation (range, 8-38 days). Delayed immune reconstitution is likely a consequence of ex vivo and in vivo purging of donor T cells in the graft coupled with inadequate thymic function rather than persistence of active r-ATG in the blood for months posttransplantation.

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