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HIV drug reduces graft-versus-host disease in stem cell transplant patients, Penn study shows
Date:12/13/2011

(SAN DIEGO) -- An HIV drug that redirects immune cell traffic appears to significantly reduce the dangerous complication graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) in blood cancer patients following allogeneic stem cell transplantation (ASCT), according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania that will be presented today at the 53rd American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting. Standard GvHD treatments suppress the immune system, reducing but not eliminating the risk of developing the common problem. In the current trial, treatment with the HIV drug maraviroc dramatically reduced the incidence of GvHD in organs where it is most dangerous -- without compromising the immune system and leaving patients more vulnerable to severe infections.

"There hasn't been a change to the standard of care for GvHD since the late 1980s, so we're very excited about these results, which exceeded our expectations," says Ran Reshef, MD, an assistant professor in the division of Hematology-Oncology and a member of the Hematologic Malignancies Research Program at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. "Until now, we thought that only extreme suppression of the immune system can get rid of GvHD, but in this approach we are not killing immune cells or suppressing their activity, we are just preventing them from moving into certain sensitive organs that they could harm."

Reshef and colleagues will present results showing that maraviroc is safe and feasible in ASCT patients those who receive stem cells from a healthy donor -- and that a brief course of the drug led to a 73 percent reduction in severe GvHD in the first six months after transplant, compared with a matched control group treated at Penn during the same time period (6 percent developed severe GvHD vs. 22 percent, respectively).

"Just like in real estate, immune responses are all about location, location, location," Reshef says. "Cells of the immune system don't move
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-200-2313
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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