Poor outcome in steroid-refractory graft-versus-host disease with antithymocyte globulin treatment

Sally Arai, Jeffrey Margolis, Marianna Zahurak, Viki Anders, Georgia B. Vogelsang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Treatment of acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) has relied on high-dose steroids, but less than 50% of patients show durable remission. Antithymocyte globulin (ATG) has become a standard salvage therapy. We now report our experience with ATG for the treatment of steroid-refractory GVHD in 69 patients treated from January 1, 1980, to May 1,1999. Patients with GVHD were given an overall grade using standard criteria. Overall responses were similar to those in previously published literature. However, long-term survival for this group of patients was dismal. Of the 69 patients treated with ATG for steroid-refractory GVHD, only 3 (5%) are currently alive. The median survival of these patients by GVHD grade was 4.1 months for grade 2, 3.6 months for grade 3, and 2.7 months for grade 4. The age range of the surviving patients was 3 to 25 years. Only 5% of the deaths were due to relapse, with the remaining deaths due to GVHD, infection, and/or organ failure. In conclusion, ATG treatment can produce objective responses in patients with aGVHD, but these responses do not result in long-term survival. Given the poor survival rates of patients treated with ATG for steroid -refractory GVHD, treatment with ATG as standard therapy should be reconsidered. Patients with steroid-refractory GVHD should be enrolled in clinical study until there are data to support a standard salvage therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-160
Number of pages6
JournalBiology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Antithymocyte globulin
  • Graft-versus-host disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Transplantation


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