BACKGROUND Chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a major complication of allogeneic stem-cell transplantation, becomes glucocorticoid-refractory or glucocorticoid-dependent in approximately 50% of patients. Robust data from phase 3 randomized studies evaluating second-line therapy for chronic GVHD are lacking. In retrospective surveys, ruxolitinib, a Janus kinase (JAK1-JAK2) inhibitor, showed potential efficacy in patients with glucocorticoid-refractory or -dependent chronic GVHD. METHODS This phase 3 open-label, randomized trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of ruxolitinib at a dose of 10 mg twice daily, as compared with the investigator's choice of therapy from a list of 10 commonly used options considered best available care (control), in patients 12 years of age or older with moderate or severe glucocorticoid-refractory or -dependent chronic GVHD. The primary end point was overall response (complete or partial response) at week 24; key secondary end points were failure-free survival and improved score on the modified Lee Symptom Scale at week 24. RESULTS A total of 329 patients underwent randomization; 165 patients were assigned to receive ruxolitinib and 164 patients to receive control therapy. Overall response at week 24 was greater in the ruxolitinib group than in the control group (49.7% vs. 25.6%; odds ratio, 2.99; P<0.001). Ruxolitinib led to longer median failure-free survival than control (>18.6 months vs. 5.7 months; hazard ratio, 0.37; P<0.001) and higher symptom response (24.2% vs. 11.0%; odds ratio, 2.62; P=0.001). The most common (occurring in ≥10% patients) adverse events of grade 3 or higher up to week 24 were thrombocytopenia (15.2% in the ruxolitinib group and 10.1% in the control group) and anemia (12.7% and 7.6%, respectively). The incidence of cytomegalovirus infections and reactivations was similar in the two groups. CONCLUSIONS Among patients with glucocorticoid-refractory or -dependent chronic GVHD, ruxolitinib led to significantly greater overall response, failure-free survival, and symptom response. The incidence of thrombocytopenia and anemia was greater with ruxolitinib.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-238
Number of pages11
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 Jul 2021


FundersFunder number
Novartis and Incyte


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