Potential Treatments Discovered for Common Complication Following Bone Marrow Transplant


Researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine have made significant breakthroughs in finding potential treatments for two common complications that arise after bone marrow transplantation.

Bone marrow transplantation is a widely used therapy for leukemia and other blood cancers. In this procedure, stem cells from a donor are transplanted into a patient. However, a frequent complication associated with this procedure is graft vs. host disease (GvHD), where the donated cells recognize the recipient’s cells as foreign and launch an attack.

There are two types of GvHD: acute and chronic. Acute GvHD occurs shortly after transplantation and primarily affects the skin, intestines, or liver. On the other hand, chronic GvHD can develop at any time after the transplant and typically affects the skin, mouth, lungs, intestines, muscles, or joints.

In a recent study published in Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, a team of researchers administered a drug called defibrotide to mice undergoing bone marrow transplantation. Defibrotide is typically used to treat blocked blood vessels in the liver. The results showed that the drug protected the cells lining the blood vessels, which are often damaged in patients with acute GvHD.

Senthilnathan Palaniyandi, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, explained that the treatment with defibrotide led to significantly improved survival rates and reduced the severity of acute GvHD. Moreover, the drug’s anti-inflammatory and endothelial protective effects did not impair the transplanted immune cells that fight against leukemia. This discovery offers promising potential for the treatment of acute GvHD.

In a separate study published in Bone Marrow Transplantation, the research team focused on addressing chronic GvHD. They discovered that introducing different types of BTK/ITK kinase inhibitors reduced the severity of chronic GvHD and increased survival rates in mice.

Gerhard Hildebrandt, MD, Division Chief of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, and Director of MU Health Care’s Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, highlighted their findings on the effectiveness of a combination kinase inhibitor in treating skin disease associated with chronic GvHD. Mice treated with the combination kinase inhibitor exhibited a significant reduction in chronic complications linked to bone marrow transplantation.

These results demonstrate that a drug protecting the cells lining blood vessels can effectively reduce acute GvHD, while kinase inhibition holds promise as a treatment for chronic GvHD.

Hildebrandt emphasized the importance of deepening our understanding of managing GvHD to improve the efficacy of bone marrow transplantation. The research conducted at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center reflects the University of Missouri Health System’s commitment to advancing research and saving and enhancing lives.

These breakthroughs in potential treatments for complications following bone marrow transplantation provide hope for improved patient outcomes and pave the way for further research in this vital field.

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