Comparative Study of Mycophenolate Mofetil and Methotrexate in Graft-Versus-Host Disease Prophylaxis in Adult Recipients of Related and Unrelated Allo-HSCT

IS Moiseev, YuA Tarakanova, AL Alyanskii, EV Babenko, MM Kanunnikov, VA Dubkova, EV Morozova, EI Darskaya, OA Slesarchuk, AD Kulagin, SN Bondarenko, BV Afanas’ev

RM Gorbacheva Scientific Research Institute of Pediatric Oncology, Hematology and Transplantation; IP Pavlov First Saint Petersburg State Medical University, 6/8 L’va Tolstogo str., Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation, 197022

For correspondence: Ivan Sergeevich Moiseev, MD, PHD, 6/8 L’va Tolstogo str., Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation, 197022; Tel.: +7(812)338-55-03; e-mail:

For citation: Moiseev IS, Tarakanova YuA, Alyanskii AL, et al. Comparative Study of Mycophenolate Mofetil and Methotrexate in Graft-Versus-Host Disease Prophylaxis in Adult Recipients of Related and Unrelated Allo-HSCT. Clinical oncohematology. 2019;12(1):43–50.

DOI: 10.21320/2500-2139-2019-12-1-43-50


Background. Although the use of methotrexate (MTX) and mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) for prophylaxis of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) was compared in a large number of studies, the published results are contradictory. This fact provides ground for the present retrospective single-center trial comparing these two approaches in GVHD prophylaxis.

Materials & Methods. The present study included 294 allo-HSC recipients with MTX prophylaxis and 172 allo-HSC recipients with MMF prophylaxis. 36 % of patients underwent matched related donor transplantation, and 64 % of patients received matched unrelated donor transplantation.

Results. Univariate and multivariate analyses showed that probability of acute grade 2–4 GVHD is 36 % vs. 39 % (hazard ratio [HR] 1.297; 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.931–1.795;= 0.122), grade 3–4 GVHD was 21 % vs. 25 % (HR 1.472; 95% CI 0.951–2.256;= 0.05), and probability of chronic GVHD was 52 % vs. 55 % (HR 0.978; 95% CI 0.951–1.406;= 0.91). In the MTX and MMF groups there were no significant differences in transplantation mortality (HR 1.173; 95% CI 0.797–1.708;= 0.43), relapse incidence (HR 1.034; 95% CI 0.743–1.428;= 0.84), overall survival (HR 1.087; 95% CI 0.825–1.433;= 0.55), event-free survival (HR 1.108; 95% CI 0.854–1.437;= 0.43), disease and GVHD free survival (HR 1.065; 95% CI 0.845–1.343;= 0.59). Engraftment occurred earlier when MMF was used (= 0.035). Administration of MMF instead of MTX was associated with lower probability of toxic grade 3–4 hepatitis (7 % vs. 31 %; p < 0.0001) and grade 3–4 mucositis (23 % vs. 45 %;= 0.0002).

Conclusion. The efficacy of GVHD prophylaxis using MMF is comparable with that of MTX, but MMF is associated with a better safety profile due to reduced incidence of severe liver toxicity and mucositis.

Keywords: allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, graft-versus-host disease, prophylaxis, methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil.

Received: May 23, 2018

Accepted: December 4, 2018

Read in PDF 


  1. Савченко В.Г., Любимова Л.С., Паровичникова Е.Н. и др. Трансплантация аллогенных и аутологичных гемопоэтических стволовых клеток при острых лейкозах (итоги 20-летнего опыта). Терапевтический архив. 2007;79(7):30–5.

    [Savchenko VG, Lyubimova LS, Parovichnikova EN, et al. Transplantation of allogeneic and autologous hematopoietic stem cells in acute leukemias (summary of 20-year experience). Terapevticheskii arkhiv. 2007;79(7):30–5. (In Russ)]

  2. Афанасьев Б.В., Зубаровская Л.С., Цисская К.О. и др. Результаты трансплантации гемопоэтических предшественников у детей в России и Белоруссии по данным отчета рабочей группы по трансплантации у детей. Педиатрия. 1997;76(4):3.

    [Afanas’ev BV, Zubarovskaya LS, Tsisskaya KO, et al. Results of hematopoietic progenitor cell transplantation in children in Russia and Belorussia according to the report of the working group on transplantation in children. 1997;76(4):3. (In Russ)]

  3. Saliba RM, Couriel DR, Giralt S, et al. Prognostic value of response after upfront therapy for acute GVHD. Bone Marrow Transplant. 2012;47(1):125–31. doi: 10.1038/bmt.2011.41.

  4. Perez-Simon JA, Encinas C, Silva F, et al. Prognostic factors of chronic graft-versus-host disease following allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplantation: the National Institutes Health scale plus the type of onset can predict survival rates and the duration of immunosuppressive therapy. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2008;14(10):1163–71. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2008.07.015.

  5. Storb R, Deeg HJ, Pepe M, et al. Methotrexate and cyclosporine versus cyclosporine alone for prophylaxis of graft-versus-host disease in patients given HLA-identical marrow grafts for leukemia: long-term follow-up of a controlled trial. Blood. 1989;73(6):1729–34.

  6. Bacigalupo A, Lamparelli T, Bruzzi P, et al. Antithymocyte globulin for graft-versus-host disease prophylaxis in transplants from unrelated donors: 2 randomized studies from Gruppo Italiano Trapianti Midollo Osseo (GITMO). Blood. 2001;98(10):2942–7. doi: 10.1182/blood.v98.10.2942.

  7. Ruutu T, van Biezen A, Hertenstein B, et al. Prophylaxis and treatment of GVHD after allogeneic haematopoietic SCT: a survey of centre strategies by the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation. Bone Marrow Transplant. 2012;47(11):1459–64. doi: 10.1038/bmt.2012.45.

  8. Storb R, Leisenring W, Anasetti C, et al. Methotrexate and cyclosporine for graft-vs.-host disease prevention: what length of therapy with cyclosporine? Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 1997;3(4):194–201.

  9. Niederwieser D, Maris M, Shizuru JA, et al. Low-dose total body irradiation (TBI) and fludarabine followed by hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) from HLA-matched or mismatched unrelated donors and postgrafting immunosuppression with cyclosporine and mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) can induce durable complete chimerism and sustained remissions in patients with hematological diseases. Blood. 2003;101(4):1620–9. doi: 10.1182/blood-2002-05-1340.

  10. Osunkwo I, Bessmertny O, Harrison L, et al. A pilot study of tacrolimus and mycophenolate mofetil graft-versus-host disease prophylaxis in childhood and adolescent allogeneic stem cell transplant recipients. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2004;10(4):246–58. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2003.11.005.

  11. Neumann F, Graef T, Tapprich C, et al. Cyclosporine A and mycophenolate mofetil vs cyclosporine A and methotrexate for graft-versus-host disease prophylaxis after stem cell transplantation from HLA-identical siblings. Bone Marrow Transplant. 2005;35(11):1089–93. doi: 10.1038/sj.bmt.1704956.

  12. Perkins J, Field T, Kim J, et al. A randomized phase II trial comparing tacrolimus and mycophenolate mofetil to tacrolimus and methotrexate for acute graft-versus-host disease prophylaxis. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2010;16(7):937–47. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2010.01.010.

  13. Yerushalmi R, Shem-Tov N, Danylesko I, et al. The combination of cyclosporine and mycophenolate mofetil is less effective than cyclosporine and methotrexate in the prevention of acute graft-versus host disease after stem-cell transplantation from unrelated donors. Am J Hematol. 2017;92(3):259–68. doi: 10.1002/ajh.24631.

  14. Terakura S, Wake A, Inamoto Y, et al. Exploratory research for optimal GvHD prophylaxis after single unit CBT in adults: short-term methotrexate reduced the incidence of severe GvHD more than mycophenolate mofetil. Bone Marrow Transplant. 2017;52(3):423–30. doi: 10.1038/bmt.2016.255.

  15. Przepiorka D, Weisdorf D, Martin P, et al. 1994 Consensus Conference on Acute GVHD Grading. Bone Marrow Transplant. 1995;15(6):825–8.

  16. Filipovich AH, Weisdorf D, Pavletic S, et al. National Institutes of Health consensus development project on criteria for clinical trials in chronic graft-versus-host disease: I. Diagnosis and staging working group report. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2005;11(12):945–56. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2005.09.004.

  17. Armand P, Kim HT, Logan BR, et al. Validation and refinement of the Disease Risk Index for allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Blood. 2014;123(23):3664–71. doi: 10.1182/blood-2014-01-552984.

  18. Morishima Y, Kawase T, Malkki M, et al. Significance of ethnicity in the risk of acute graft-versus-host disease and leukemia relapse after unrelated donor hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2013;19(8):1197–203. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2013.05.020.

  19. Kofler S, Deutsch MA, Bigdeli AK, et al. Proton pump inhibitor co-medication reduces mycophenolate acid drug exposure in heart transplant recipients. J Heart Lung Transplant. 2009;28(6):605–11. doi: 10.1016/j.healun.2009.03.006.

  20. van Gelder T, Klupp J, Barten MJ, et al. Comparison of the effects of tacrolimus and cyclosporine on the pharmacokinetics of mycophenolic acid. Ther Drug Monit. 2001;23(2):119–28. doi: 10.1097/00007691-200104000-00005.

  21. Maris MB, Sandmaier BM, Storer BE, et al. Unrelated donor granulocyte colony-stimulating factor-mobilized peripheral blood mononuclear cell transplantation after nonmyeloablative conditioning: the effect of postgrafting mycophenolate mofetil dosing. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2006;12(4):454–65. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2005.12.030.

  22. Hamad N, Shanavas M, Michelis FV, et al. Mycophenolate-based graft versus host disease prophylaxis is not inferior to methotrexate in myeloablative-related donor stem cell transplantation. Am J Hematol. 2015;90(5):392–9. doi: 10.1002/ajh.23955.

  23. Kiehl MG, Schafer-Eckart K, Kroger M, et al. Mycophenolate mofetil for the prophylaxis of acute graft-versus-host disease in stem cell transplant recipients. Transplant Proc. 2002;34(7):2922–4. doi: 10.1016/s0041-1345(02)03489-9.

  24. Bolwell B, Sobecks R, Pohlman B, et al. A prospective randomized trial comparing cyclosporine and short course with cyclosporine and mycophenolate mofetil for GVHD prophylaxis in myeloablative allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. Bone Marrow Transplant. 2004;34(7):621–5. doi: 10.1038/sj.bmt.1704647.

  25. Russell JA, Woodman RC, Poon MC. Addition of low-dose folinic acid to a methotrexate/cyclosporin A regimen for prevention of acute graft-versus-host disease. Bone Marrow Transplant. 1994;14(3):397–401.

  26. Моисеев И.С., Галанкин Т.Л., Доценко А.А. и др. Фармакоэкономика различных методов лечения стероид-рефрактерной реакции «трансплантат против хозяина»: анализ результатов лечения в одноцентровом исследовании. Ученые записки Санкт-Петербургского государственного медицинского университета имени академика И.П. Павлова. 2018;25(1):35–44. doi: 10.24884/1607-4181-2018-25-1-35-44.

    [Moiseev IS, Galankin TL, Dotsenko AA, et al. Pharmacoeconomic analysis of different methods for the treatment of steroid-refractory graft-versus-host disease: single-center study. The Scientific Notes of the I.P. Pavlov St. Petersburg State Medical University. 2018;25(1):35–44. doi: 10.24884/1607-4181-2018-25-1-35-44. (In Russ)]

  27. Моисеев И.С., Бурмина Е.А., Тараканова Ю.А. и др. Лечение хронической рефрактерной реакции «трансплантат против хозяина» после трансплантации гемопоэтических стволовых клеток с помощью низких доз интерлейкина-2. Ученые записки Санкт-Петербургского государственного медицинского университета имени академика И.П. Павлова. 2015;22(4):44–8. doi: 10.24884/1607-4181-2015-22-4-44-48.

    [Moiseev IS, Burmina EA, Tarakanova YuA, et al. Treatment of refractory chronic graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation with low-dose interleukin-2. The Scientific Notes of the I.P. Pavlov St. Petersburg State Medical University. 2015;22(4):44–8. doi: 10.24884/1607-4181-2015-22-4-44-48. (In Russ)]

  28. Luznik L, O’Donnell PV, Symons HJ, et al. HLA-haploidentical bone marrow transplantation for hematologic malignancies using nonmyeloablative conditioning and high-dose, posttransplantation cyclophosphamide. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2008;14(6):641–50. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2008.03.005.

  29. Moiseev IS, Pirogova OV, Babenko EV, et al. Single-agent post-transplantation cyclophosphamide versus calcineurin-based graft-versus-host disease prophylaxis in matched related bone marrow transplantation. Cell Ther Transplant. 2017;6(4):52–9. doi: 10.18620/ctt-1866-8836-2017-6-4-52-59.

  30. Balashov D, Shcherbina A, Maschan M, et al. Single-Center Experience of Unrelated and Haploidentical Stem Cell Transplantation with TCRαβ and CD19 Depletion in Children with Primary Immunodeficiency Syndromes. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2015;21(11):1955–62. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2015.07.008.