PURPOSEChronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) remains the major cause of late morbidity after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. Colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF-1R) dependent macrophages promote cGVHD fibrosis, and their elimination in preclinical studies ameliorated cGVHD. Axatilimab is a humanized monoclonal antibody that inhibits CSF-1R signaling and restrains macrophage development.PATIENTS AND METHODSThis phase I (phI)/phase II (phII) open-label study (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT03604692) evaluated safety, tolerability, and efficacy of axatilimab in patients age 6 years with active cGVHD after 2 prior systemic therapy lines. Primary objectives in phI were to identify the optimal biologic and recommended phII dose and in phII to evaluate the overall (complete and partial) response rate (ORR) at the start of treatment cycle 7.RESULTSForty enrolled patients (17 phI; 23 phII) received at least one axatilimab dose. In phI, a dose of 3 mg/kg given once every 4 weeks met the optimal biologic dose definition. Two dose-limiting toxicities occurred at the 3 mg/kg dose given once every 2 weeks. At least one treatment-related adverse event (TRAE) was observed in 30 patients with grade 3 TRAEs in eight patients, the majority known on-target effects of CSF-1R inhibition. No cytomegalovirus reactivations occurred. With the 50% ORR at cycle 7 day 1, the phII cohort met the primary efficacy end point. Furthermore, the ORR in the first six cycles, an end point supporting regulatory approvals, was 82%. Responses were seen in all affected organs regardless of prior therapy. Fifty-eight percent of patients reported significant improvement in cGVHD-related symptoms using the Lee Symptom Scale. On-target activity of axatilimab was suggested by the decrease in skin CSF-1R expressing macrophages.CONCLUSIONTargeting profibrotic macrophages with axatilimab is a therapeutically promising novel strategy with a favorable safety profile for refractory cGVHD.