BACKGROUND HLA-C epitopes can be grouped in C1C1, C1C2 or C2C2 ligands and mediate NK cell dependent immune response. Especially in haploidentical allogeneic stem cell transplantation a HLA-C ligand mismatch improves event free survival (EFS) in patients with AML known as Velardi effect. Recently, we could show in 109 CML patients that those with a C1C1 phenotype showed better overall survival (OS) and lower rates of treatment related mortality (TRM) (Fischer JC et al. J Immunology. 2007). But, the role of HLA-C ligands in allogeneic transplantations remains controversial.

PATIENTS AND METHODS In this study we retrospectively analyzed a group of 88 patients with AML or CML (n=34), MDS (n=21) or lymphoid malignancies (Non-Hodgkin-Lymphoma or ALL) (n=31) receiving unrelated allogeneic blood stem cell transplantation after myeloablative and non-myeloablative conditioning regimens. HLA-C alleles were determined by DNA-based direct sequencing of all donors and recipients included into this study.

RESULTS Looking at the group of 34 patients with AML or CML, the 13 recipients with a C1C1 phenotype showed increased OS compared to those with C1C2 and C2C2 phenotypes (all patients alive with a median follow-up of 154 days, range 90 to 665 days vs. a mean survival of 381 days, respectively; p=0.049). All recipients with a C1C1 phenotype received grafts with matched HLA-C alleles. Within the subgroup of patients with C1C2 or C2C2 phenotypes 6 patients had a HLA-C mismatch which was associated with significantly (p=0.016) increased OS (all patients alive with a median follow-up of 575 days, range 133 to 899) compared to matched HLA-C phenotypes (median survival of 254 days). In recipients with C1C1 phenotype the risk for TRM following HLA-C matched hematopoietic stem cell transplantation was reduced as reflected by an odds ratio of 0.13. In turn, the group receiving HLA-C mismatched grafts had a lower incidence of relapse. This effect was independent from the direction of the mismatch, graft vs. host or host vs. graft. The effects described above were not observed in patients with MDS, ALL or lymphoid malignancy.

CONCLUSION The beneficial effects of a C1C1 HLA-C phenotype could be confirmed for patients with CML and AML in our patient cohort. Our data also suggest that patients with myeloid malignancies and an unfavourable C1C2 or C2C2 HLA-C phenotype benefit from a donor with HLA-C ligand mismatch.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.