Skin toxicity is a known but understudied complication of autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT). Its assessment is complicated by the development of graft-vs-host disease following allogeneic transplantation. We chose therefore to study skin toxicity following autologous transplantation. We retrospectively reviewed the records of 392 patients undergoing ASCT to analyze risk factors for skin toxicity, its association with mucositis and its effect on survival. Skin toxicity was assessed three times a week during the transplant admission and was classified as none, mild, moderate, severe or life threatening. The most severe skin toxicity is used in this analysis. Mucositis was assessed using the modified oral mucositis assessment scale (OMAS). Median patient age was 53 years; 63% of patients had non-Hodgkin s lymphoma (NHL), 17.6% multiple myeloma, 13.5% Hodgkin disease (HD) and 5.9% acute leukemia. Peripheral blood progenitor cells were mobilized with G-CSF alone (36%) or the combination of etoposide plus G-CSF (64%). The preparative regimen was busulfan (Bu)/cyclophosphamide (Cy) /etoposide in 82% and Bu/Cy alone in 18%. Two hundred and sixty patients (67%) developed skin toxicity of which 143 patients (36.5%) had mild, 105 (26.8%) had moderate and 16 (3.9%) had severe skin toxicity. Factors associated with the development of any skin toxicity in univariable analysis were male gender (p=0.028), diagnosis of NHL (p<0.001) or HD (p=0.001), higher number of prior chemotherapy regimens (p<0.001), mobilization regimen containing etoposide (p< 0.001) and ASCT preparative regimen containing etoposide (p<0.001). Moderate skin toxicity correlated with the above as well. Only the inclusion of etoposide in the mobilization regimen was associated with an increased risk of severe skin toxicity (p=0.035). Etoposide in the preparative regimen remained the most significant risk factor for the development of skin toxicity in multivariable analysis. Higher OMAS score was associated with increased severity of skin toxicity (p<0.001) as shown in the boxplot below:

Patients with severe skin toxicity appeared to have worse overall survival (p=0.054) and relapse-free survival (p=0.08), but these findings did not reach statistical significance.

Conclusion: A substantial proportion of patients develop skin toxicity following autotransplantation. The inclusion of etoposide in the preparative regimen is associated with a significant increased frequency in multivariable analysis. The severity of skin toxicity correlates closely with the severity of mucositis.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.