Optimization of autologous stem cell transplantation for systemic sclerosis - A single-center longterm experience in 26 patients with severe organ manifestations

Joerg C. Henes, Marc Schmalzing, Wichard Vogel, Gabriela Riemekasten, Falko Fend, Lothar Kanz, Ina Koetter*

*Corresponding author for this work
45 Citations (Scopus)


Objective. Autologous stem cell transplantation (aSCT) for systemic sclerosis (SSc) has been shown to be effective in recent reports. This aggressive approach and the disease itself are associated with a high mortality. We report our experiences in 26 consecutive patients. Methods. Between 1997 and 2009, 26 patients were scheduled for aSCT. Our standard transplant regimen consists of cyclophosphamide (CYC) and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (GCSF) for mobilization and CYC plus antithymocyte globulin for conditioning before the retransfusion of CD34 selected stem cells. The major outcome variable was the response to treatment [reduction of modified Rodnan skin score (mRSS) by 25%] at Month 6. Secondary endpoints were the transplant-related mortality and the progression-free survival. Results. Significant skin and lung function improvement of the mRSS was achieved in 78.3% of patients at Month 6. The overall response rate was 91%, as some patients improved even after Month 6. Three patients died between mobilization and conditioning treatment, 2 due to severe disease progression and 1 whose death was considered treatment-related (i.e., GCSF or CYC toxicity). Depending on definitions, transplant-related mortality was 4% and treatment-related mortality 11%. Seven patients experienced a relapse during the 4.4 years of followup. The progression-free survival was 74%. Four patients died during followup and the most frequent causes of death were pulmonary and cardiac complications of SSc. Conclusion. aSCT led to significant improvement in most patients with SSc. The procedure requires further optimization; hence we are modifying our screening and treatment strategy. To minimize infectious complications, CYC for mobilization and GCSF were reduced. We intensified our screening for cardiac involvement and modified our conditioning regimen in case of cardiac involvement. The Journal of Rheumatology

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)269-275
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 02.2012

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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