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Cancer Health Center

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Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Late Effects of the Immune System

Table 12. Spleen Late Effects continued...

Refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines for Preventing Opportunistic Infections Among Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Recipients for more information on posttransplant immunization.

Immune System

Although the immune system appears to recover from the effects of active chemotherapy and radiation, there is some evidence that lymphoid subsets may not always normalize. Innate immunity, thymopoiesis, and DNA damage responses to radiation were shown to be abnormal in survivors of childhood leukemia.[8] Antibody levels to previous vaccinations are also reduced in patients off therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia for at least one year,[9,10] suggesting persistence of abnormal humoral immunity [11] and a need for revaccination in such children. Immune status is also compromised after stem cell transplantation, particularly in association with GVHD.[12] In a prospective, longitudinal study of 210 survivors treated with allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation, antibody responses lasting for more than 5 years after immunization were observed in most patients for tetanus (95.7%), rubella (92.3%), poliovirus (97.9%), and, in diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) recipients, diphtheria (100%). However, responses to pertussis (25.0%), measles (66.7%), mumps (61.5%), hepatitis B (72.9%), and diphtheria in tetanus-diphtheria (Td) recipients (48.6%) were less favorable. Factors associated with vaccine failure include older age at immunization; lower CD3, CD4, or CD19 count; higher immunoglobulin M concentration; positive recipient cytomegalovirus serology; negative titer before immunization; history of acute or chronic GVHD; and radiation conditioning.[13]

Follow-up recommendations for transplant recipients have been published by the major North American and European transplant groups, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.[14,15]

Refer to the Children's Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines for Survivors of Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancers for immune system late effects information including risk factors, evaluation, and health counseling.


  1. Immunization in special circumstances. In: Pickering LK, Baker CJ, Kimberlin DW, et al., eds.: Red Book: 2012 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. 29th ed. Elk Grove Village, Ill: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012, pp 69-109.
  2. Kaiser CW: Complications from staging laparotomy for Hodgkin disease. J Surg Oncol 16 (4): 319-25, 1981.
  3. Jockovich M, Mendenhall NP, Sombeck MD, et al.: Long-term complications of laparotomy in Hodgkin's disease. Ann Surg 219 (6): 615-21; discussion 621-4, 1994.
  4. Coleman CN, McDougall IR, Dailey MO, et al.: Functional hyposplenia after splenic irradiation for Hodgkin's disease. Ann Intern Med 96 (1): 44-7, 1982.
  5. Weiner MA, Landmann RG, DeParedes L, et al.: Vesiculated erythrocytes as a determination of splenic reticuloendothelial function in pediatric patients with Hodgkin's disease. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 17 (4): 338-41, 1995.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for use of quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY-D) among children aged 9 through 23 months at increased risk for invasive meningococcal disease. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 60 (40): 1391-2, 2011.
  7. Pickering LK, Baker CJ, Kimberlin DW, et al., eds.: Red Book: 2012 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. 29th ed. Elk Grove Village, Ill: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012. Also available online. Last accessed February 7, 2014.
  8. Schwartz C L, Hobbie WL, Constine LS, et al., eds.: Survivors of Childhood Cancer: Assessment and Management. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby, 1994.
  9. Leung W, Neale G, Behm F, et al.: Deficient innate immunity, thymopoiesis, and gene expression response to radiation in survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Cancer Epidemiol 34 (3): 303-8, 2010.
  10. Aytac S, Yalcin SS, Cetin M, et al.: Measles, mumps, and rubella antibody status and response to immunization in children after therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Pediatr Hematol Oncol 27 (5): 333-43, 2010.
  11. Brodtman DH, Rosenthal DW, Redner A, et al.: Immunodeficiency in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia after completion of modern aggressive chemotherapeutic regimens. J Pediatr 146 (5): 654-61, 2005.
  12. Olkinuora HA, Taskinen MH, Saarinen-Pihkala UM, et al.: Multiple viral infections post-hematopoietic stem cell transplantation are linked to the appearance of chronic GVHD among pediatric recipients of allogeneic grafts. Pediatr Transplant 14 (2): 242-8, 2010.
  13. Inaba H, Hartford CM, Pei D, et al.: Longitudinal analysis of antibody response to immunization in paediatric survivors after allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Br J Haematol 156 (1): 109-17, 2012.
  14. Rizzo JD, Wingard JR, Tichelli A, et al.: Recommended screening and preventive practices for long-term survivors after hematopoietic cell transplantation: joint recommendations of the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research, and the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT/CIBMTR/ASBMT). Bone Marrow Transplant 37 (3): 249-61, 2006.
  15. Tomblyn M, Chiller T, Einsele H, et al.: Guidelines for preventing infectious complications among hematopoietic cell transplantation recipients: a global perspective. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 15 (10): 1143-238, 2009.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: 8/, 015
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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