We recently conducted a randomized double-blind study in which we demonstrated that moderate/severe chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) but not cGVHD-free survival was reduced in patients receiving anti-T lymphocyte globulin (ATLG) versus placebo. In a companion study we performed immunophenotypic analysis to determine the impact of ATLG on immune reconstitution (IR) and to correlate IR with clinical outcomes. The randomized study (n = 254) included patients (aged 18 to 65 years) who underwent myeloablative transplants for acute myeloid leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, or acute lymphoblastic leukemia from HLA-matched unrelated donors. Ninety-one patients consented for the companion IR study (ATLG = 44, placebo = 47). Blood samples were collected on days 30, 100, 180, and 360 after hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), and multiparameter flow cytometry was performed in a blinded fashion. Reconstitution of CD3+ and CD4+ T cells was delayed up to 6 months post-HCT in the ATLG arm, whereas absolute regulatory T cell (Treg) (CD4+25+127-) numbers were lower only in the first 100 days. Analysis of the CD4+ Treg and conventional T cells (Tconv) (CD4+25–127+) compartments showed a profound absence of naive Tregs and Tconv in the first 100 days post-HCT, with very slow recovery for 1 year. B cell and natural killer cell recovery were similar in each arm. Higher absolute counts of CD3+, CD4+, CD8+ T, Tregs, and Tconv were associated with improved overall survival, progression-free survival, and nonrelapse mortality but not moderate/severe cGVHD. Although ATLG delays CD3+ and CD4+ T cell recovery post-transplant, it has a relative Treg sparing effect after the early post-HCT period, with possible implications for protection from cGVHD. ATLG severely compromises the generation of naive CD4+ cells (Treg and Tconv), potentially affecting the diversity of the TCR repertoire and T cell responses against malignancy and infection.
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