Photochemotherapy and Graft-versus-Leukemia Reaction in Acute Leukemia: Tumor Immunity and Survival Are Dependent on Timing of Photochemotherapy of the Skin
BACKGROUND Cure of acute leukemia after transplantation is mediated by the grafted cells. We investigated the graft-versus-leukemia effect (GVL) in patients with cutaneous acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) treated with photochemotherapy (psoralen and ultraviolet light type A). METHOD Forty-seven patients with acute leukemia were followed 5,000 days after transplantation to assess survival and GVL by multivariate analysis. The primary predictor was time to treatment of cutaneous acute GVHD by photochemotherapy separated into treatment start during the first week of acute GVHD versus after the first week of acute GVHD. RESULTS Photochemotherapy started after the first week of acute GVHD predicted GVL with a hazard ratio (HR) of 3.94 (95% confidence interval, CI, 1.67-9.33, p = 0.0018) and survival with preserved GVL with an HR of 2.63 (95% CI 1.30-5.32, p = 0.007). The effects on GVL and survival with preserved GVL were present regardless of whether the patients were transplanted in remission or relapse (p < 0.05). Chronic GVHD came earlier in the group that started photochemotherapy after 1 week of acute GHVD, but chronic GVHD did not increase the GVL. CONCLUSION The timing of photochemotherapy after cutaneous acute GVHD may direct the GVL and predict long-term leukemia-free survival.