Retrospectively we analyzed the histocompatibility data and clinical results of bone marrow transplantation in 51 patients who received marrow from unrelated donors (UD) from 1977 to 1987 at one of four UK BMT centers. We compared the results with those obtaiend in 51 transplants carried out at the same centers using HLA-identical (ID) sibling donors. Of the UD/recipient pairs 32 (63%) were serologically identical for HLA A, B, and DR antigens, and 37% showed varying degrees of mismatch. UD-BMT primary diagnoses were: severe aplastic anemia or Fanconi's anemia (n = 17), acute leukemia (n = 11), chronic myeloid leukemia (n = 21), and other conditions (n = 2). T cell depletion of the graft was associated with a significant improvement in survival in both UD and ID-BMT. Graft failure was more common in recipients of UD than of ID transplants (13 [25%] vs. 5 [10%] P = 0.05) but there was no significant difference in the frequency of acute or chronic graft-versus-host disease. Actuarial survival was superior for recipients of ID transplants (UD vs. ID: 49% vs. 78%, respectively, at 3 months; 32% vs. 63% at one year). Reduced survival for recipients of UD-BMT was confirmed in case control regression analysis (relative risk 3.0, P = 0.01). Nevertheless in patients whose only alternative is a partially mismatched family donor we think that UD-BMT is justified.
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