Despite prophylaxis with immunosuppressive drugs, severe acute graft- versus-host disease (GVHD) remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients transplanted with unmodified bone marrow (BM) grafts from HLA-identical siblings. Although T-cell depletion of the BM graft has evolved as the most effective method to prevent severe acute GVHD, this beneficial effect is counterbalanced by an increased rate of graft failure and relapse of the disease. To find an approach to T-cell depletion that may avoid these extreme risks, we gave BM recipients a fixed low number of 1 x 10(5) donor T cells per kilogram of recipient's body weight in the graft. This corresponds with 99% T-cell depletion and is achieved by the addition of T cells to the graft that was previously depleted of T cells. A total of 70 patients with hematologic malignancies or aplastic anemia, including 40 patients with standard- risk leukemias, received BM grafts, depleted of T cells according to this approach, from HLA-identical siblings. The preparative regimen consisted of cyclophosphamide and total body irradiation. The patients also received a short course of cyclosporine posttransplant. Graft failure did not occur. Acute GVHD, only grade I or II, was seen in 70% of the patients and was limited to the skin in all patients. Chronic GVHD occurred in 31% of the patients and, with the exception of 1 patient, was limited to the skin as well. Relapse occurred in 3 of 40 (8%) patients with standard-risk leukemias, resulting in a projected survival at 5 years of 80%. Patients with standard-risk diseases had a procedure-related mortality of 11%. Quality of life, determined 1 year after BM transplant, was good in almost all patients with standard-risk diseases. Thus, this approach of T-cell depletion may be an approach that avoids the development of severe acute and chronic GVHD without damaging the function or antileukemic effect of the graft and that has a low transplant-related morbidity and mortality.