Delayed engraftment is a major limitation of cord blood transplantation (CBT), due in part to a defect in the cord blood (CB) cells' ability to home to the bone marrow. Because this defect appears related to low levels of fucosylation of cell surface molecules that are responsible for binding to P- and E-selectins constitutively expressed by the marrow microvasculature, and thus for marrow homing, we conducted a first-in-humans clinical trial to correct this deficiency. Patients with high-risk hematologic malignancies received myeloablative therapy followed by transplantation with 2 CB units, one of which was treated ex vivo for 30 minutes with the enzyme fucosyltransferase-VI and guanosine diphosphate fucose to enhance the interaction of CD34+ stem and early progenitor cells with microvessels. The results of enforced fucosylation for 22 patients enrolled in the trial were then compared with those for 31 historical controls who had undergone double unmanipulated CBT. The median time to neutrophil engraftment was 17 days (range, 12-34 days) compared with 26 days (range, 11-48 days) for controls (P = .0023). Platelet engraftment was also improved: median was 35 days (range, 18-100 days) compared with 45 days (range, 27-120 days) for controls (P = .0520). These findings support ex vivo fucosylation of multipotent CD34+ CB cells as a clinically feasible means to improve engraftment efficiency in the double CBT setting. The trial is registered to www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT01471067.
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© 2015 by The American Society of Hematology.