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Blood. 2006 Oct 15;108(8):2874-80. Epub 2006 Jun 27.

Marked increased risk of Epstein-Barr virus-related complications with the addition of antithymocyte globulin to a nonmyeloablative conditioning prior to unrelated umbilical cord blood transplantation.

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Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, 420 Delaware Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Umbilical cord blood (UCB) is increasingly used as an alternative source of hematopoietic stem cells for transplantation for patients who lack a suitable sibling donor. Despite concerns about a possible increased risk of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) posttransplantation lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) after UCB transplantation, early reports documented rates of PTLD comparable to those reported after HLA-matched unrelated marrow myeloablative (MA) transplantations. To further investigate the incidence of EBV PTLD after UCB transplantation and potential risk factors, we evaluated the incidence of EBV-related complications in 335 patients undergoing UCB transplantation with an MA or nonmyeloablative (NMA) preparative regimen. The incidence of EBV-related complications was a 4.5% overall, 3.3% for MA transplantations, and 7% for NMA transplantations. However, the incidence of EBV-related complications was significantly higher in a subset of patients treated with an NMA preparative regimen that included antithymocyte globulin (ATG) versus those that did not (21% vs 2%; P < .01). Nine of 11 patients who developed EBV PTLD were treated with rituximab (anti-CD20 antibody), with the 5 responders being alive and disease free at a median of 26 months. Use of ATG in recipients of an NMA preparative regimen warrants close monitoring for evidence of EBV reactivation and potentially preemptive therapy with rituximab.

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