Researchers discover drug target and genetic pathway for graft-versus-host disease

Researchers discover drug target and genetic pathway for graft-versus-host disease

Source: News Medical

A Seattle Children's Research Institute lab has discovered a genetic pathway that can be targeted with existing drugs to prevent graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a common and deadly complication of bone marrow transplants. The results of their work were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. In patients with GVHD, newly transplanted T cells from the bone marrow graft attack the transplant recipient's body. Over 10,000 people in the United States receive bone marrow transplants each year for leukemia, other non-malignant blood conditions and autoimmune diseases. About 50-70 percent of bone marrow transplant patients will acquire GVHD. Of those who develop the most severe form, up to half will die. "This is a mysterious disease that has perplexed doctors who treat bone marrow transplant patients for decades," said Dr. Leslie Kean, a pediatric cancer specialist at Seattle Children's Research Institute and lead study author. "We can cure patients of leukemia and other diseases with bone marrow transplants, but many of those patients get GVHD. In extreme cases, those patients end up with severe complications, chronic and painful side effects, and may even die of GVHD."

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