Background: The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the deployment of unfamiliar measures to safeguard successful allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). Among these measures, cryopreservation offered logistical benefits that could outlast the pandemic, including graft availability and timely clinical service. The purpose of this study was to evaluate graft quality and hematopoietic reconstitution in patients transplanted with cryopreserved allogeneic stem cell products during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We evaluated 44 patients who underwent allo-HCT using cryopreserved grafts consisting of hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC) apheresis (A) and bone marrow (BM) products at Mount Sinai Hospital. Comparative analyses of 37 grafts infused fresh during the one-year period preceding the pandemic were performed. Assessment of cellular therapy products included total nucleated cell and CD34+ cell enumeration, viability, and post-thaw recovery. The primary clinical endpoint was the evaluation of engraftment (absolute neutrophil count [ANC] and platelet count) and donor chimerism (presence of CD33+ and CD3+ donor cells) at day +30 and +100 post-transplant. Adverse events related to cell infusion were also analyzed. Results: Patient characteristics were comparable between the fresh and cryopreserved groups with 2 exceptions in the HPC-A cohort: the number of patients in the cryopreserved group that received haploidentical grafts was 6 times that in the fresh group, and the number of patients in the fresh group with a Karnofsky performance score >90 was double that in the cryopreserved group. The quality of HPC-A and HPC-BM products was not affected by cryopreservation, and all grafts met the release criteria for infusion. The pandemic did not affect the time between collection and cryopreservation (median, 24 hours) and time in storage (median, 15 days). Median time to ANC recovery was significantly delayed in recipients of cryopreserved HPC-A (15 vs 11 days, P = .0121), and there was a trend toward delayed platelet engraftment (24 vs 19 days, P = .0712). The delay in ANC and platelet recovery was not observed when only matched graft recipients were compared. Cryopreservation did not affect the ability of HPC-BM grafts to engraft and reconstitute hematopoiesis, and there was no difference in the rates of ANC and platelet recovery. Achievement of donor CD3/CD33 chimerism was not affected by cryopreservation of either HPC-A or HPC-BM products. Graft failure was observed in only 1 case, a recipient of cryopreserved HPC-BM. Three recipients of cryopreserved HPC-A grafts died before ANC engraftment from infectious complications. Remarkably, 22% of our studied population had myelofibrosis, and almost half received cryopreserved HPC-A grafts with no graft failure observed. Finally, patients receiving cryopreserved grafts were at a higher risk of infusion-related adverse events than those receiving fresh grafts. Conclusions: Cryopreservation of allogeneic grafts results in adequate product quality with minimal impact on short-term clinical outcomes, except for an increased risk of infusion-related adverse events. Cryopreservation is a safe option in terms of graft quality and hematopoietic reconstitution with logistical benefits, but additional data are needed to determine long-term outcomes and assess whether this is a suitable strategy for at-risk patients.
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|Published - Oct 2023