Non-myeloablative stem cell transplantation and donor lymphocyte infusion for the treatment of cancer and life-threatening non-malignant disorders

Shimon Slavin*, Arnon Nagler, Mehmet Aker, Michael Y. Shapira, Gabriel Cividalli, Reuven Or

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Allogeneic bone marrow or blood stem cell transplantation (BMT) represents an important therapeutic tool for the treatment of otherwise incurable malignant and non-malignant diseases. Until recently, autologous and allogeneic bone marrow and mobilized blood stem cell transplantations were used primarily to replace malignant, genetically abnormal or deficient immunohematopoietic compartments, and therefore highly toxic myeloablative regimens were considered to be mandatory for the effective eradication of all undesirable host-derived hematopoietic elements. Our preclinical and ongoing clinical studies have indicated that much more effective eradication of the host immuno-hematopoietic system cells can be achieved by adoptive allogeneic cell therapy with donor lymphocyte infusion following BMT. Thus, eradication of blood cancer cells, especially in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia and, less frequently, in patients with other hematologic malignancies, can frequently be accomplished despite the complete resistance of such tumor cells to maximally tolerated doses of chemoradiotherapy. Our cumulative experience has suggested that graft-vs.-leukemia (GVL) effects might be a useful tool for the eradication of otherwise resistant tumor cells of host origin. Based on the cumulative clinical experience and experimental data in animal models of human diseases, it appears that the induction of host-vs.-graft tolerance as an initial step may allow the durable engraftment of donor immunocompetent lymphocytes, which may be used for the induction of effective biologic warfare against host-type immunohematopoietic cells that need to be replaced, including malignant, genetically abnormal or self-reactive cells. Based on the aforementioned rationale, we speculated that the therapeutic benefit of BMT may be improved by using safer conditioning as part of the transplant procedure, with the goal being to induce host-vs.-graft tolerance to enable subsequent induction of GVL, possibly graft-vs.-tumor or even graft-vs.-autoimmunity effects, rather than attempting to eliminate host cells with hazardous myeloablative chemoradio-therapy. This hypothesis suggested that effective BMT procedures could be accomplished without lethal conditioning of the host, using new well-tolerated non-myeloablative regimens, thus possibly minimizing immediate and late side-effects related to the myeloablative procedures until recently considered to be mandatory for the conditioning of BMT recipients. Recent clinical data presented in this review suggest that effective BMT procedures may be accomplished with well-tolerated non-myeloablative stem cell transplantation (NST) regimens, with no major toxicity. Thus, new NST approaches may offer the feasibility of safer BMT procedures for a large spectrum of clinical indications in children and elderly individuals, without lower or upper age limits, while minimizing procedure-related toxicity and mortality. Taken together, our data suggest that high-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be successfully replaced by a more effective biologic tool, alloreactive donor lymphocytes, thus setting the stage for innovative therapeutic procedures for safer and more effective treatment of patients in need of BMT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-146
Number of pages12
JournalReviews in Clinical and Experimental Hematology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes


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