Effective treatment of low-risk acute GVHD with itacitinib monotherapy

Aaron Etra, Alexandra Capellini, Amin Alousi, Monzr M. Al Malki, Hannah Choe, Zachariah DeFilipp, William J. Hogan, Carrie L. Kitko, Francis Ayuk, Janna Baez, Isha Gandhi, Stelios Kasikis, Sigrun Gleich, Elizabeth Hexner, Matthias Hoepting, Urvi Kapoor, Steven Kowalyk, Deukwoo Kwon, Amelia Langston, Marco MielcarekGeorge Morales, Umut Özbek, Muna Qayed, Ran Reshef, Wolf Rösler, Nikolaos Spyrou, Rachel Young, Yi Bin Chen, James L.M. Ferrara, John E. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The standard primary treatment for acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) requires prolonged, high-dose systemic corticosteroids (SCSs) that delay reconstitution of the immune system. We used validated clinical and biomarker staging criteria to identify a group of patients with low-risk (LR) GVHD that is very likely to respond to SCS. We hypothesized that itacitinib, a selective JAK1 inhibitor, would effectively treat LR GVHD without SCS. We treated 70 patients with LR GVHD in a multicenter, phase 2 trial (NCT03846479) with 28 days of itacitinib 200 mg/d (responders could receive a second 28-day cycle), and we compared their outcomes to those of 140 contemporaneous, matched control patients treated with SCSs. More patients responded to itacitinib within 7 days (81% vs 66%, P = .02), and response rates at day 28 were very high for both groups (89% vs 86%, P = .67), with few symptomatic flares (11% vs 12%, P = .88). Fewer itacitinib-treated patients developed a serious infection within 90 days (27% vs 42%, P = .04) due to fewer viral and fungal infections. Grade ≥3 cytopenias were similar between groups except for less severe leukopenia with itacitinib (16% vs 31%, P = .02). No other grade ≥3 adverse events occurred in >10% of itacitinib-treated patients. There were no significant differences between groups at 1 year for nonrelapse mortality (4% vs 11%, P = .21), relapse (18% vs 21%, P = .64), chronic GVHD (28% vs 33%, P = .33), or survival (88% vs 80%, P = .11). Itacitinib monotherapy seems to be a safe and effective alternative to SCS treatment for LR GVHD and deserves further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-489
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 2 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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