Polyclonal anti-thymocyte globulins for the prophylaxis of graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic stem cell or bone marrow transplantation in adults

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Abstract

Background: Allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (SCT) is an established treatment for many malignant and non-malignant haematological disorders. Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a condition frequently occurring after an allogeneic SCT, is the result of host tissues being attacked by donor immune cells. It affects more than half of the patients after transplant either as acute and or chronic GVHD. One strategy for the prevention of GVHD is the administration of anti-thymocyte globulins (ATGs), a set of polyclonal antibodies directed against a variety of immune cell epitopes, leading to immunosuppression and immunomodulation. Objectives: To assess the effect of ATG used for the prevention of GVHD in patients undergoing allogeneic SCT with regard to overall survival, incidence and severity of acute and chronic GVHD, incidence of relapse, non-relapse mortality, graft failure and adverse events. Search methods: For this update we searched the CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, trial registers and conference proceedings on the 18th November 2022 along with reference checking and contacting study authors to identify additional studies. We did not apply language restrictions. Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the impact of ATG on GVHD prophylaxis in adults suffering from haematological diseases and undergoing allogeneic SCT. The selection criteria were modified from the previous version of this review. Paediatric studies and studies where patients aged < 18 years constituted more than 20 % of the total number were excluded. Treatment arms had to differ only in the addition of ATG to the standard GVHD prophylaxis regimen. Data collection and analysis: We used standard methodological procedures expected by the Cochrane Collaboration for data collection, extraction and analyses. Main results: For this update we included seven new RCTs, leading to a total of ten studies investigating 1413 participants. All patients had a haematological condition which warranted an allogeneic SCT. The risk of bias was estimated as low for seven and unclear for three studies. ATG probably has little or no influence on overall survival (HR (hazard ratio) 0.93 (95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.77 to 1.13, nine studies, n = 1249, moderate-certainty evidence)). Estimated absolute effect: 430 surviving people per 1000 people not receiving ATG compared to 456 people surviving per 1000 people receiving the intervention (95 % CI 385 to 522 per 1000 people). ATG results in a reduction in acute GVHD II to IV with relative risk (RR) 0.68 (95 % CI 0.60 to 0.79, 10 studies, n = 1413, high-certainty evidence). Estimated absolute effect: 418 acute GVHD II to IV per 1000 people not receiving ATG compared to 285 per 1000 people receiving the intervention (95 % CI 251 to 331 per 1000 people). Addition of ATG results in a reduction of overall chronic GvHD with a RR of 0.53 (95 % CI 0.45 to 0.61, eight studies, n = 1273, high-certainty evidence). Estimated absolute effect: 506 chronic GVHD per 1000 people not receiving ATG compared to 268 per 1000 people receiving the intervention (95 % CI 228 to 369 per 1000 people). Further data on severe acute GVHD and extensive chronic GVHD are available in the manuscript. ATG probably slightly increases the incidence of relapse with a RR of 1.21 (95 % CI 0.99 to 1.49, eight studies, n =1315, moderate-certainty evidence).
Non relapse mortality is probably slightly or not affected by ATG with an HR of 0.86 (95 % CI 0.67 to 1.11, nine studies, n=1370, moderate-certainty evidence). ATG prophylaxis may result in no increase in graft failure with a RR of 1.55 (95 % CI 0.54 to 4.44, eight studies, n = 1240, low-certainty evidence). Adverse events could not be analysed due to the serious heterogeneity in the reporting between the studies, which limited comparability (moderate-certainty evidence) and are reported in a descriptive manner. Subgroup analyses on ATG types, doses and donor type are available in the manuscript. Authors' conclusions: This systematic review suggests that the addition of ATG during allogeneic SCT probably has little or no influence on overall survival. ATG results in a reduction in the incidence and severity of acute and chronic GvHD. ATG intervention probably slightly increases the incidence of relapse and probably does not affect the non relapse mortality. Graft failure may not be affected by ATG prophylaxis. Analysis of data on adverse events was reported in a narrative manner. A limitation for the analysis was the imprecision in reporting between the studies thereby reducing the confidence in the certainty of evidence.

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Chakupurakal, G., Freudenberger, P., Skoetz, N., Ahr, H., & Theurich, S. (2023). Polyclonal anti-thymocyte globulins for the prophylaxis of graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic stem cell or bone marrow transplantation in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2023(6). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009159.pub3

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