GvHD remains a significant challenge in allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). An under-investigated strategy to reduce GvHD is the modification of the preparative conditioning regimen. Cyclophosphamide (CY) and total body irradiation (TBI) is a commonly utilized myeloablative conditioning regimen, but is associated with GvHD. Bendamustine (BEN) is an alkylating agent that has been applied recently in nonmyeloablative chemotherapy-based conditioning regimens, demonstrating reduced myelosuppression, transplant related mortality, and acute graft versus host disease (GvHD). We have recently published that BEN can effectively replace CY when given following murine haploidentical bone marrow transplantation. We therefore hypothesized that BEN can also have advantages over CY when given in conjunction with TBI as a myeloablative preparative regimen.


We used a major histocompatibility mismatched murine BMT model to evaluate GvHD following BEN-TBI and CY-TBI conditioning. BALB/c (H-2d) mice received equivalent doses of BEN or CY (based on maximum tolerated dose), followed by TBI (400 cGy) and infusion of bone marrow (BM) cells with splenocytes (SC) or purified T-cells from C57BL/6 (H-2b) mice. GvHD morbidity and mortality and engraftment were monitored and MDSC frequencies were assessed by flow cytometry and immunofluorescence.


We demonstrate that BEN-TBI conditioning, while facilitating complete donor chimerism, results in significantly less GvHD and improved survival compared to CY-TBI. In BEN-TBI conditioned mice, suppressive CD11b+Gr-1high myeloid cells are increased in the blood, bone marrow (BM), and spleen, with no evident differences in suppressive function. The ratio of Gr-1+ cells to T-cells is significantly increased in BEN-TBI mice in the intestines. When Gr-1high cells are depleted prior to transplant, the beneficial effects of BEN-TBI are partially lost. Alternatively, administration of G-CSF, which promotes CD11b+Gr-1+ myeloid cell expansion, trends towards an increase in survival in BEN-TBI mice.


These findings indicate a potential role of granulocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) in the mechanism by which BEN allows engraftment with reduced GvHD. BEN-TBI conditioning reduces GvHD morbidity and mortality compared to CY-TBI and may present a safer alternative to CY-TBI as a myeloablative conditioning regimen in allogeneic HCT.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.