Immunosuppressive therapy can produce hematologic improvement in a large proportion of patients with severe aplastic anemia. Antithymocyte globulin (ATG) is the current treatment of choice for patients who do not have histocompatible sibling donors or who are otherwise inegligible for allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. About 50% of patients respond to an initial course of ATG, and many nonresponders can be salvaged by subsequent treatment with cyclosporine (CsA). To determine whether simultaneous administration of these agents could further improve response rates, we enrolled 55 patients in a therapeutic trial of 4 days of ATG and 6 months of CsA. Among the 51 patients who had not received previous courses of ATG or CsA, 67% had responded by 3 months, and 78% had responded by 1 year (response was defined as an increase in peripheral blood counts sufficient that a patient no longer met the criteria for severe disease). There was a high incidence of relapse (36% actuarial risk at 2 years), but most relapsed patients responded to additional courses of immunosuppression, and relapse was not associated with a significant survival disadvantage. Evolution to myelodysplastic syndromes and acute leukemia was rare (1 of 51 patients), but the later appearance of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria was more common (5 of 51 patients). Actuarial survival was 86% at 1 year and 72% at 2 years. These data support the use of a combination immunosuppressive regimen containing both ATG and CsA as first-line therapy for severe aplastic anemia.

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