BACKGROUND: Despite current therapies, diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) often has a devastating outcome. We compared myeloablative CD34+ selected autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation with immunosuppression by means of 12 monthly infusions of cyclophosphamide in patients with scleroderma.
METHODS: We randomly assigned adults (18 to 69 years of age) with severe scleroderma to undergo myeloablative autologous stem-cell transplantation (36 participants) or to receive cyclophosphamide (39 participants). The primary end point was a global rank composite score comparing participants with each other on the basis of a hierarchy of disease features assessed at 54 months: death, event-free survival (survival without respiratory, renal, or cardiac failure), forced vital capacity, the score on the Disability Index of the Health Assessment Questionnaire, and the modified Rodnan skin score.
RESULTS: In the intention-to-treat population, global rank composite scores at 54 months showed the superiority of transplantation (67% of 1404 pairwise comparisons favored transplantation and 33% favored cyclophosphamide, P=0.01). In the per-protocol population (participants who received a transplant or completed ≥9 doses of cyclophosphamide), the rate of event-free survival at 54 months was 79% in the transplantation group and 50% in the cyclophosphamide group (P=0.02). At 72 months, Kaplan-Meier estimates of event-free survival (74% vs. 47%) and overall survival (86% vs. 51%) also favored transplantation (P=0.03 and 0.02, respectively). A total of 9% of the participants in the transplantation group had initiated disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) by 54 months, as compared with 44% of those in the cyclophosphamide group (P=0.001). Treatment-related mortality in the transplantation group was 3% at 54 months and 6% at 72 months, as compared with 0% in the cyclophosphamide group.
CONCLUSIONS: Myeloablative autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation achieved long-term benefits in patients with scleroderma, including improved event-free and overall survival, at a cost of increased expected toxicity. Rates of treatment-related death and post-transplantation use of DMARDs were lower than those in previous reports of nonmyeloablative transplantation. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institutes of Health; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00114530 .).