Uncontrolled studies have suggested that bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) may be effective against acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD). We conducted a multicenter, randomized study to assess the efficacy of using ex vivo cultured adult human MSC (remestemcel-L) in addition to second-line therapy to treat steroid-refractory aGVHD (NCT00366145). In total, 260 patients, 6 months to 70 years of age, were enrolled from August 2006 to May 2009 and were randomized 2:1 to receive 8 intravenous infusions of remestemcel-L or placebo, given over 4 weeks, in addition to second-line therapy according to institutional standards. Four additional infusions over 4 weeks were indicated for patients with incomplete response at day 28. Randomization was stratified by aGVHD grade. Efficacy and safety were assessed through 180 days of follow-up, with the primary endpoint being durable complete response (DCR), defined as complete resolution of aGVHD symptoms for any period of at least 28 days after beginning treatment. Remestemcel-L did not meet the primary endpoint of greater DCR in the intent-to-treat population (35% versus 30%; P = 0.42). In post hoc analyses, patients with liver involvement who received at least 1 infusion of remestemcel-L had a higher DCR, and higher overall complete or partial response rate (OR) than those who received placebo (29% versus 5%; P = .047). Among high-risk patients (aGVHD grades C and D), remestemcel-L demonstrated significantly higher OR at day 28 than placebo (58% versus 37%; P = 0.03). Furthermore, pediatric patients had a higher OR with MSCs compared with placebo (64% versus 23%; P = .05). Similar rates of adverse events were observed between treatment groups. Remestemcel-L was safe and well tolerated. Results of this study did not demonstrate superior DCR compared with placebo when added to standard of care. The favorable clinical responses seen in some patient subsets may warrant further investigation.
- Acute graft-versus-host disease
- Hematopoietic cell transplantation
- Mesenchymal stem cells
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