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New genetic clues to why most bone marrow transplant patients develop graft-versus-host disease
Date:9/4/2012

SEATTLE A team of scientists led by a bone marrow transplant researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has shed new light on why most bone marrow transplant patients who receive tissue-matched cells from unrelated donors still suffer acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). The answer appears to lie in the discovery of previously undetected genetic differences in the DNA of patients and unrelated marrow donors.

The laboratory-based study findings by Effie Petersdorf, M.D., and colleagues soon will be translated to the clinic when a Hutchinson Center transplant protocol the first of its kind opens at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance later this year to test patients and donors for these genetic differences. The goal is to further refine the tissue-matching process to reduce the incidence of GVHD, which affects about 80 percent of patients and has been a longtime, vexing challenge for transplant doctors.

GVHD occurs when the donor immune system (the graft) begins to circulate in the patient's bloodstream and recognizes the host's (the patient's) tissue as foreign. When this happens, the new immune system attacks the recipient's tissues such as the liver, gastrointestinal system and skin.

Bone marrow and stem cell transplants are used to treat a variety of malignant blood diseases such as leukemia. Hematopoietic cell transplantation was pioneered at the Hutchinson Center in the 1970s and continues to be a major focus of research and clinical trials to improve survival and reduce side effects.

Published recently in Science Translational Medicine, the study details how researchers identified two specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms, also called SNPs (pronounced "snips"), within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) in human DNA that are markers for either acute GVHD or disease-free survival. These markers are distinct from the human leukocyte antigens (HLA), found on the same chromosome as the MHC, that are tradi
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Contact: Dean Forbes
dforbes@fhcrc.org
206-667-2896
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Source:Eurekalert

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