Allele-level HLA matching for umbilical cord blood transplantation for non-malignant diseases in children: a retrospective analysis.



The standard for selecting unrelated umbilical cord blood units for transplantation for non-malignant diseases relies on antigen-level (lower resolution) HLA typing for HLA-A and HLA-B, and allele-level for HLA-DRB1. We aimed to study the effects of allele-level matching at a higher resolution-HLA-A, HLA-B, HLA-C, and HLA-DRB1, which is the standard used for adult unrelated volunteer donor transplantation for non-malignant diseases-for umbilical cord blood transplantation.


We retrospectively studied 1199 paediatric donor-recipient pairs with allele-level HLA matching who received a single unit umbilical cord blood transplantation for non-malignant diseases reported to the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research or Eurocord and European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplant. Transplantations occurred between Jan 1, 2000, and Dec 31, 2012. The primary outcome was overall survival. The effect of HLA matching on survival was studied using a Cox regression model.


Compared with HLA-matched transplantations, mortality was higher with transplantations mismatched at two (hazard ratio [HR] 1·55, 95% CI 1·08-2·21, p=0·018), three (2·04, 1·44-2·89, p=0·0001), and four or more alleles (3·15, 2·16-4·58, p<0·0001). There were no significant differences in mortality between transplantations that were matched and mismatched at one allele (HR 1·18, 95% CI 0·80-1·72, p=0·39). Other factors associated with higher mortality included recipient cytomegalovirus seropositivity (HR 1·40, 95% CI 1·13-1·74, p=0·0020), reduced intensity compared with myeloablative conditioning regimens (HR 1·36, 1·10-1·68, p=0·0041), transplantation of units with total nucleated cell dose of more than 21 × 107 cells per kg compared with 21 × 107 cells per kg or less (HR 1·47, 1·11-1·95, p=0·0076), and transplantations done in 2000-05 compared with those done in 2006-12 (HR 1·64, 1·31-2·04, p<0·0001). The 5-year overall survival adjusted for recipient cytomegalovirus serostatus, conditioning regimen intensity, total nucleated cell dose, and transplantation period was 79% (95% CI 74-85) after HLA matched, 76% (71-81) after one allele mismatched, 70% (65-75) after two alleles mismatched, 62% (57-68) after three alleles mismatched, and 49% (41-57) after four or more alleles mismatched transplantations. Graft failure was the predominant cause of mortality.


These data support a change from current practice in that selection of unrelated umbilical cord blood units for transplantation for non-malignant diseases should consider allele-level HLA matching at HLA-A, HLA-B, HLA-C, and HLA-DRB1.


National Cancer Institute; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases; US Department of Health and Human Services-Health Resources and Services Administration; and US Department of Navy.





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Publication Info

Eapen, Mary, Tao Wang, Paul A Veys, Jaap J Boelens, Andrew St Martin, Stephen Spellman, Carmem Sales Bonfim, Colleen Brady, et al. (2017). Allele-level HLA matching for umbilical cord blood transplantation for non-malignant diseases in children: a retrospective analysis. The Lancet. Haematology, 4(7). pp. e325–e333. 10.1016/s2352-3026(17)30104-7 Retrieved from

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Joanne Kurtzberg

Jerome S. Harris Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics

Dr. Kurtzberg is an internationally renowned expert in pediatric hematology/oncology, pediatric blood and marrow transplantation, umbilical cord blood banking and transplantation, and novel applications of cord blood and birthing tissues in the emerging fields of cellular therapies and regenerative medicine.   Dr. Kurtzberg serves as the Director of the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures (MC3), Director of the Pediatric Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program, Director of the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, and Co-Director of the Stem Cell Transplant Laboratory at Duke University.  The Carolinas Cord Blood Bank is an FDA licensed public cord blood bank distributing unrelated cord blood units for donors for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) through the CW Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program.  The Robertson GMP Cell Manufacturing Laboratory supports manufacturing of RETHYMIC (BLA, Enzyvant, 2021), allogeneic cord tissue derived and bone marrow derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), and DUOC, a microglial/macrophage cell derived from cord blood.

Dr. Kurtzberg’s research in MC3 focuses on translational studies from bench to bedside, seeking to develop transformative clinical therapies using cells, tissues, molecules, genes, and biomaterials to treat diseases and injuries that currently lack effective treatments. Recent areas of investigation in MC3 include clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of autologous and allogeneic cord blood in children with neonatal brain injury – hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy (CP), and autism. Clinical trials testing allogeneic cord blood are also being conducted in adults with acute ischemic stroke. Clinical trials optimizing manufacturing and testing the safety and efficacy of cord tissue MSCs in children with autism, CP and HIE and adults with COVID-lung disease are underway. DUOC, given intrathecally, is under study in children with leukodystrophies and adults with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

In the past, Dr. Kurtzberg has developed novel chemotherapeutic drugs for acute leukemias, assays enumerating ALDH bright cells to predict cord blood unit potency, methods of cord blood expansion, potency assays for targeted cell and tissue based therapies. Dr. Kurtzberg currently holds several INDs for investigational clinical trials from the FDA.  She has also trained numerous medical students, residents, clinical and post-doctoral fellows over the course of her career.

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