BACKGROUND: Tissue damage after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) occurs as a result of high-dose chemotherapy and radiation. The aim was to determine the importance of pretransplant anemia on toxicity and red blood cell (RBC) transfusion requirements after autologous HSCT.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: A total of 350 patients undergoing autologous HSCT were included in the analysis. Patient factors and pretransplant laboratory values of possible relevance were assessed in multivariate regression analysis.

RESULTS: Reduced hemoglobin (Hb) on the first day of peripheral blood progenitor cell (PBPC) collection was significantly associated with increased organ toxicity after HSCT, as measured by the Seattle criteria. Lower Hb levels at baseline before transplantation, but not at PBPC collection, were significantly associated with increased RBC transfusion requirements. In a second cohort of 28 patients, higher Hb levels on the day of PBPC collection were significantly associated with increased levels of endothelial-like vascular progenitor cells in PBPC grafts.

CONCLUSION: Our observations suggest that higher Hb levels on the day of PBPC collection may be a marker of reduced toxicity associated with HSCT and increased vascular progenitors in PBPC collections. Further, baseline anemia before transplant may reflect an unfavorable hematopoietic microenvironment that leads to increased RBC transfusion requirements.