Combination Therapy for Graft-versus-Host Disease Prophylaxis with Etanercept and Extracorporeal Photopheresis: Results of a Phase II Clinical Trial

Carrie L. Kitko, Thomas Braun, Daniel R. Couriel, Sung W. Choi, James Connelly, Sandra Hoffmann, Steven Goldstein, John Magenau, Attaphol Pawarode, Pavan Reddy, Charles Schuler, Gregory A. Yanik, James L. Ferrara, John E. Levine

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28 Scopus citations


Reduced-intensity conditioning (RIC) regimens minimize early toxicity after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) by placing greater reliance on establishing a graft-versus-leukemia effect (GVL). Because graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and GVL are tightly linked, inhibition of T cell populations that cause GVHD may lead to an unintended increased risk of relapse in the RIC setting. Although not completely understood, etanercept and extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) are thought to ameliorate GVHD without direct T cell inhibition. We hypothesized that adding these 2 agents to a standard GVHD prophylaxis regimen of tacrolimus and mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) would improve survival by reducing GVHD-related mortality without increasing relapse rates. Therefore, we conducted a prospective phase II clinical trial that incorporated tacrolimus, MMF, etanercept, and ECP as GVHD prophylaxis in 48 patients undergoing RIC unrelated donor transplantation. The preferred RIC was fludarabine 160 mg/m2 + busulfan 6.4 mg/kg to 12.8 mg/kg ± total body irradiation 200 cGy. Etanercept .4 mg/kg (maximum dose, 25 mg) was given subcutaneously twice weekly for 8 weeks after HCT and ECP was given for 12 treatments, starting weekly on day 28 weekly and tapering off by day 180. The median age of the study patients was 60 (range, 18 to 71) years. Donors were 7/8 (n = 14, 29%) or 8/8 (n = 34, 71%) HLA matched. All patients engrafted neutrophils at a median of 12 days. The cumulative incidence of grades II to IV acute GVHD at day 100 was 46%, but it was typically sensitive to initial steroid treatment (84% day 56 complete response/partial response rate). Overall survival at 1 year in this older, frequently mismatched unrelated donor setting was excellent (73%) because of low rates of nonrelapse mortality (21%) and relapse (19%). However, this strategy was not effective at preventing a high incidence of chronic GVHD and late deaths led to a drop in 2-year survival, declining to 56%, reflecting a high incidence of chronic GVHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)862-868
Number of pages7
JournalBiology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2016


  • Etanercept
  • Graft-versus-host disease
  • Photopheresis
  • Prophylaxis


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