WEDNESDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- An HIV drug significantly reduced the risk of graft-versus-host disease, an all-too-common complication in blood cancer patients following bone marrow transplants, new research finds.
Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside the bones that contains immature cells, or stem cells. In an "allogeneic" bone marrow transplantation, also called a stem cell transplant, a patient's own stem cells and immune system are wiped out by chemotherapy and radiation. Then, the patient receives the transplant, or bone marrow, from a closely matched donor.
The treatment is used for several types of blood cancers, including lymphoma and leukemia.
But a common complication of a bone marrow transplant is graft-versus-host disease. It occurs when transplanted immune cells attack patients' healthy tissue, a complication that can be minor or life-threatening.
"Graft-versus-host disease affecting the skin, liver, gut and other organs is a dreaded complication of allogeneic stem cell transplantation either from a related or unrelated donor," said one expert, Dr. Jasmine Zain of NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "The rates are 35 percent with related donors and up to 57 percent by day 100, even in reduced-intensity transplants," added Zain, who is director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Program and assistant professor in the division of hematologic malignancies and medical oncology at the center.
The study was conducted by a team at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine and included 38 patients with several types of blood cancers. The cancers included acute myeloid leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, lymphoma and myelofibrosis. All of the patients were given the drugs tacrolimus and methotrexate, which suppress the immune system and are a standard treatment to prevent graft-versus-host disease.
The patients were also given a 33-day course of the HIV drug, mara
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