Extracorporeal photopheresis: A case of graft-versus-host-disease and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis following liver transplantation.

BACKGROUND: Graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) is one of the rare complications following liver transplantation. We report on the efficacy and safety of extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) in managing GVHD and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) after liver transplantation. CASE REPORT: The patient is a 63-year-old male with hepatitis B cirrhosis who underwent liver transplantation. Three weeks after transplant, he presented with fever, diarrhea, and poor appetite. The patient also had bilateral blanchable erythematous patches on his palms, biopsy of which was suggestive of GVHD. The patient continued to have high-grade fever with altered mental status. CBC showed pancytopenia. Liver function examination was normal. Patient was started on methylprednisolone. Additional laboratory analysis showed high ferritin (>15000 ug/L), triglycerides (280 mg/dl), and low fibrinogen (80 mg/dl). Chimerism analysis using short tandem repeat (STR) PCR confirmed the diagnosis of GVHD. Marrow biopsy showed hemophagocytosis. The patient fulfilled the HLH-2004 diagnostic criteria. He was kept on tacrolimus and steroids and was started on etanercept and ECP. After the first two cycles of ECP (one cycle defined as the weekly two procedures of ECP), the patient reported improvement of symptoms. He tolerated ECP well. His labs improved during the course of treatment, until his peripheral blood STR showed 100% recipient DNA. He was discharged after the fourth cycle of ECP to receive the remaining treatments as outpatient. At one year follow-up, the patient is asymptomatic with no evidence of GVHD or HLH. DISCUSSION: ECP in combination with immunosuppressive therapy and etanercept was safe and efficient in managing GVHD and HLH following liver transplantation.
There is no standard definition for “HLA incompatible” transplants. For the first time, we systematically assessed how HLA incompatibility was defined in contemporary peer-reviewed publications and its prognostic implication to transplant outcomes.
We combined 2 independent searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library from 2015 to 2019. Content-expert reviewers screened for original research on outcomes of HLA-incompatible transplants (defined as allele or molecular mismatch and solid-phase or cell-based assays). We ascertained the completeness of reporting on a predefined set of variables assessing HLA incompatibility, therapies, and outcomes. Given significant heterogeneity, we conducted narrative synthesis and assessed risk of bias in studies examining the association between death-censored graft failure and HLA incompatibility.
Of 6656 screened articles, 163 evaluated transplant outcomes by HLA incompatibility. Most articles reported on cytotoxic/flow T-cell crossmatches (n = 98). Molecular genotypes were reported for selected loci at the allele-group level. Sixteen articles reported on epitope compatibility. Pretransplant donor-specific HLA antibodies were often considered (n = 143); yet there was heterogeneity in sample handling, assay procedure, and incomplete reporting on donor-specific HLA antibodies assignment. Induction (n = 129) and maintenance immunosuppression (n = 140) were frequently mentioned but less so rejection treatment (n = 72) and desensitization (n = 70). Studies assessing death-censored graft failure risk by HLA incompatibility were vulnerable to bias in the participant, predictor, and analysis domains.
Optimization of transplant outcomes and personalized care depends on accurate HLA compatibility assessment. Reporting on a standard set of variables will help assess generalizability of research, allow knowledge synthesis, and facilitate international collaboration in clinical trials.