We compared three fludarabine-based regimens for systemic sclerosis patients with a high-risk cardiac phenotype that according to EBMT criteria would be a contraindication for a high-dose cyclophosphamide (200 mg/kg) transplant regimen. All three regimens included fludarabine, ATG, and cyclophosphamide (60 mg/kg), while two regimens also included rituximab with or without IVIG. Treatment related mortality (TRM) was 2.4%. The mean number of days of neutropenia (ANC < 500) was 5.2, the mean number of platelet and red blood cell transfusions was 0.3 and 1.85, respectively. Skin score, forced vital capacity (FVC), and total lung capacity (TLC) improved with all three regimens. For patients whose regimen did not include rituximab versus those that included rituximab, 1-year overall relapse rate was higher 36% (5/14) versus 3.6% (1 of 28) (p = 0.01), secondary autoimmune diseases were higher 21% (3/14) versus 0% (0/28) (p = 0.03), and upper respiratory tract infections were higher 28% (4/14) versus 3.6% (1/28) (p = 0.04). In this safety study, a fludarabine-based regimen was relatively safe with a TRM of 2.4% and a neutropenic interval of only 5.2 days in systemic sclerosis patients with a high-risk cardiac phenotype. The addition of rituximab decreased 1-year relapse rate, risk of late secondary autoimmune diseases, and upper-respiratory tract infections.
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