Transient marrow expansion of normal B-cell precursors, termed hematogones, is occasionally observed after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). To understand the clinical significance of this phenomenon, we enumerated hematogones in 108 consecutive patients who received allogeneic HSCT for the treatment of hematologic malignancies, including acute myelogenous leukemia, advanced myelodysplastic syndromes, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Hematogone quantitation was performed at the time of complete donor engraftment (median day 25 and 32 in patients who received bone marrow and cord blood cell transplants, respectively). Hematogones were polyclonal B cells, and their frequencies correlated positively with blood B-cell numbers, and inversely with donors' but not recipients' age, suggesting that hematogones reflect cell-intrinsic B-cell potential of donor cells. Interestingly, patients developing hematogones that comprised > 5% of bone marrow mononuclear cells constituted a group with significantly prolonged overall survival and relapse-free survival, irrespective of their primary disease or donor cell source. In addition, patients with > 5% hematogones developed severe acute graft-versus-host diseases less frequently, which may contribute toward their improved survival. We therefore conclude that the amount of hematogones at the time of engraftment may be a useful tool in predicting the prognosis of patients treated with allogeneic HSCT.
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