by Mark Wheeler
Imagine a young woman with leukemia finally finding a matching donor so she can undergo a hematopoietic cell transplant — only to have her new, donor-generated immune system attack her own body. The skin, gut and liver all become targets for the immune cells.
If physicians cannot stem the onslaught without overly suppressing the immune system, she may succumb to infections that would be easily fought off by a healthy immune system. Called acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD), this is one of the major complications after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation.
Predicting a patient’s risk of aGVHD would greatly help treatment. A City of Hope scientist has suggested a way to do just that, and colleagues are recognizing him for his work.
ASHI, the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, has awarded Ji-Yao Sun, M.D., associate director of City of Hope’s Histocompatibility Laboratory, its ASHI Scholar award. Sun was the first author on a study that suggests a new way to predict incidence of aGVHD.
The abstract, “Both KIR and Its Ligand Affect Clinical Outcomes of Blood and Marrow Transplants,” was one of only three selected for recognition from hundreds. Sun will present the abstract and receive the recognition at the ASHI national meeting to take place in San Diego, Oct. 16-20.
“I am pleased by this award,” said Sun, “but it was a team effort. So the honor should belong to the entire City of Hope team led by David Senitzer, Ph.D., head of the histocompatibility lab.”
Sun explained that Killer Ig-like receptors (KIR) are a major cluster of the natural killer cell receptors, and may play a role in the outcome of hematopoietic cell transplants. Natural killer cells are a type of immune cell. Sun was cited for the development of an algorithm that uses the KIR genetic makeup in recipients and donors to accurately predict the incidence of severe aGVHD.