The underlying etiology of aplastic anemia is unknown in the majority of patients, although medications, chemical exposure, or viral infections can be implicated in some. Genetic susceptibility to a variety of diseases has been shown and it has recently been suggested that aplastic anemia is more common in individuals who are HLA DR2+ than in the general population. To examine this question, we retrospectively analyzed the results of HLA-DR typing in 75 aplastic anemia patients who received antithymocyte globulin (ATG) therapy or an HLA-matched sibling bone marrow transplant at UCLA between 1978 and 1989. Thirty-one patients were DR2+, a 1.9-fold higher incidence than the expected number of 16.6 patients (P <.0005). Of the 37 patients who received ATG, 33 were evaluable for a response; 14 patients had either a complete (4 patients) or partial (10 patients) response, for an overall response rate of 42.4%. Of the 14 DR2+ patients who received ATG, 7 responded, for a 50% response rate, which is not significantly higher than the response rate for the DR2- patients (7 of 19 [36.8%]; P = .50). The median survival of patients who are DR2+ was slightly, but not significantly, longer than that of the DR2- patients in the ATG group (P = .19). Although the incidence of HLA DR2 was clearly increased in these patients with aplastic anemia, response rates to ATG were not significantly different in the DR2+ and DR2- patients.

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