BACKGROUND: No plasma biomarkers are associated with the response of acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) to therapy after allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation. METHODS: We compared 12 biomarkers in plasma obtained a median of 16 days after therapy initiation from 10 patients with a complete response by day 28 after therapy initiation and in plasma obtained from 10 patients with progressive GVHD during therapy. The lead biomarker, suppression of tumorigenicity 2 (ST2), was measured at the beginning of treatment for GVHD in plasma from 381 patients and during the first month after transplantation in three independent sets totaling 673 patients to determine the association of this biomarker with treatment-resistant GVHD and 6-month mortality after treatment or transplantation. RESULTS: Of the 12 markers, ST2 had the most significant association with resistance to GVHD therapy and subsequent death without relapse. As compared with patients with low ST2 values at therapy initiation, patients with high ST2 values were 2.3 times as likely to have treatment-resistant GVHD (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5 to 3.6) and 3.7 times as likely to die within 6 months after therapy (95% CI, 2.3 to 5.9). Patients with low ST2 values had lower mortality without relapse than patients with high ST2 values, regardless of the GVHD grade (11% vs. 31% among patients with grade I or II GVHD and 14% vs. 67% among patients with grade III or IV GVHD, P<0.001 for both comparisons). Plasma ST2 values at day 14 after transplantation were associated with 6-month mortality without relapse, regardless of the intensity of the conditioning regimen. CONCLUSIONS: ST2 levels measured at the initiation of therapy for GVHD and during the first month after transplantation improved risk stratification for treatment-resistant GVHD and death without relapse after transplantation.
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