Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) can cure patients with high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). However, many patients relapse or develop debilitating graft-versus-host disease. Transplant restores T-cell reactivity against tumor cells, implicating patient human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-dependent antigen presentation via the major histocompatibility complex as a determinant of response. We sought to identify characteristics of the HLA genotype that influence response in allo-HSCT patients.


We collected HLA genotype and panel-based somatic mutation profiles for 55 patients with AML and MDS and available data treated at the University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center between May 2012 and January 2019. We evaluated characteristics of the HLA genotype relative to relapse-free time and overall survival (OS) post-allo-HSCT using univariable and multivariable regression.


In multivariable regression, the presence of an autoimmune allele was significantly associated with relapse-free time (hazard ratio [HR], 0.25; p = 0.01) and OS (HR, 0.16; p < 0.005). The better potential of the donor HLA type to present peptides harboring driver mutations trended toward better relapse-free survival (HR, 0.45; p = 0.07) and significantly correlated with longer OS (HR, 0.33; p = 0.01) though only a minority of cases had an HLA mismatch.


In this single institution retrospective study of patients receiving allo-HSCT for relapsed AML/MDS, characteristics of an individual's HLA genotype (presence of an autoimmune allele and potential of the donor HLA to better present peptides representing driver mutations) were significantly associated with better outcomes. These findings suggest that HLA type may guide the optimal application of allo-HSCT and merit evaluation in larger cohorts. Identifier: NCT02478931

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Author notes

Source of Support: National Institutes of Health (P30 CA023100); Mark Foundation for Cancer Research (18-022-ELA); US National Library of Medicine (T15LM011271).

Competing Interests

Conflict of Interest: Dr. Goodman is a consultant for Seattle Genetics. Garret Frampton is an employee of Foundation Medicine and a shareholder of Roche. Dr. Kurzrock has received research funding from Boehringer Ingelheim, Debiopharm, Foundation Medicine, Genentech, Grifols, Guardant, Incyte, Konica Minolta, Medimmune, Merck Serono, Omniseq, Pfizer, Sequenom, Takeda, and TopAlliance and from the NCI; as well as consultant and/or speaker fees and/or advisory board/consultant for Actuate Therapeutics, AstraZeneca, Bicara Therapeutics, Inc., Biological Dynamics, Caris, Datar Cancer Genetics, Daiichi, EISAI, EOM Pharmaceuticals, Iylon, LabCorp, Merck, NeoGenomics, Neomed, Pfizer, Prosperdtx, Regeneron, Roche, TD2/Volastra, Turning Point Therapeutics, X-Biotech; has an equity interest in CureMatch Inc. and IDbyDNA; serves on the Board of CureMatch and CureMetrix, and is a co-founder of CureMatch.

Razelle Kurzrock and Hannah Carter are co-senior authors.

This work is published under a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Supplementary data