Post transplant immune reconstitution plays a major role in determining the outcome of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT), and is currently monitored with different techniques in different Centers, with the aim of identifying clinically relevant immunological biomarkers. However, it is unclear which and how many of these immunological tests are currently performed on a routine basis, and which ones have the potential to predict patient outcome, and possibly guide patient care after allo-HSCT.
The EBMT Cellular Therapy & Immunobiology Working Party (CTIWP) conducted a survey to identify current policies to monitor immune reconstitution in patients undergoing allo-HSCT and possibly reach a general consensus.
This study followed the EBMT study guidelines. All EBMT Centers were invited to participate. Each participating Center received a questionnaire on the availability of specific immunomonitoring assays, specifying the use in clinical practice and/or within investigational trials. Assays were based on relatively simple and readily available parameters such as absolute lymphocyte counts (ALC) to more complex cellular and molecular tests. Moreover, the Centers were asked to define the transplant platform (HLA-identical sibling, matched unrelated donor, haploidentical and/or cord blood) on which each test is generally performed.
Policies for post-transplant immunomonitoring have been reported by 35 participating EBMT Centers active in 14 Countries and performing allo-HSCT from HLA identical related (35 centers), matched unrelated (33), haploidentical (34), unrelated cord blood (27).
Complete blood counts and immunoglobulins are routinely tested for patients' care by all centers. Relative proportions of T cell subsets are currently tested by flow-cytometry as "standard of care" or "investigational" by 82% and 17% of centers respectively. B cell and NK cell counts are quantified routinely by 46% and 23% of Centers, and investigationally by 40% of Centers.
The availability of molecular tests (STR, qPCR, Fish) to measure post-transplant engraftment are reported by all Centers, except two, as a standard of care measure.
T cell receptor-expressing circles (TRECs) and/or K-deleting recombination excision circles (KRECs) are quantified within selected clinical trials by 37% of Centers. Interestingly, 60% of Centers evaluate, mostly as an investigational measure, antigen specific T cell responses by: proliferation assays (49%), interferon-gamma enzyme-linked immunospot-Elispot (49%), intracellular cytokine staining (46%) and tetramer/dextramer staining (37%). Most of these Centers test responses to Cytomegalovirus and Epstein Barr Virus, and 5 Centers use at least one of these assays on a routine basis.
About half of the participating Centers (43%) commonly test antigen-specific antibodies, mainly as responses to vaccines, and not routinely.
T-cell receptors (TCR) and B-cell receptors (BCR) repertoires are measured by spectratyping in 14 out of 35 Centers (4 as clinical practice and 10 in selected trials), or, in selected trials, by next generation sequencing (in 11 out of 35 the participating Centers).
Results of this survey indicate that country- and center expertise are associated with heterogeneous and distinct protocols, and underline the clinical need to harmonize methods and to provide practical recommendations for monitoring post-transplant immune reconstitution, both for routine purposes and investigational studies. Adequate reporting and connection between individual Centers exploiting these data will foster collaborative and comparative research studies, with the ultimate goals of improving patient care and refining our understanding of the immunological correlates to clinical outcome.
R. Ram, M. A. Diaz, G. McQuaker, D. Russo, E. Faber, P. Chiusolo, C. Rössig, S. M. Martin, A. Anagnostopoulos, M. Stelljes, K. Orchard, P. Jindra, A. Sampol, K. Patrick, M. A. Bekadja, J. Gayoso, A. Olivieri, J. Passweg, E. Jost, H Labussiere-Wallet, Y Koc, A. Lange, I. Garcia Cadenas, N. Kröger, A. Biondi, N. Milpied, D. Olive, E. Lanino, G. Stuhler, J.H. Dalle, J.R. Cabrera Marín, F. Ciceri, D. Uckan-Cetinkaya, R. Parody Porras, G. Kriván.
Ciceri:MolMed SpA: Consultancy. Bonini:TxCell: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Molmed SpA: Consultancy.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.