$2.2 million grant will benefit graft-versus-host disease research

November 20, 2015 | by City of Hope

 

 

Graft-versus-host disease is a serious condition that affects many people who receive a bone marrow cell transplant. To better fight it, scientists need to better understand it.

City of Hope researchers’ efforts to do just that recently got a $2.2 million boost from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also known as NIAID. The grant was awarded to Defu Zeng, M.D., a professor of diabetes immunology and hematopoietic cell transplantation at Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope. The NIAID is part of the federal National Institutes of Health.

Graft-versus-host disease, also known as GVHD, is the leading cause of long-term illness and death in patients who receive bone marrow cells from a donor. In GVHD, a donor’s immune cells attack the patient’s tissues, including in the lungs, gut and liver. Cancers of the blood treated by bone marrow transplantation include lymphoma, multiple myeloma and leukemia. The procedure is also used to treat severe autoimmune diseases.

Zeng will use the grant money to study how and why donor cells attack the patient. He and City of Hope researchers will work to develop regimens to both treat GVHD, and to prevent it.

“If successful, this research will provide new insights into the mechanisms of chronic GVHD development and may identify targets to prevent autoimmunity,” Zeng said.

To prepare a patient for a bone marrow transplant, doctors must suppress his or her immune system by using full-body radiation and high-dose chemotherapy.  As a result, these patients are then susceptible to attack by the donor immune cells.

“The proposed studies will provide new insights into how donor (cells) interact to induce and perpetuate chronic GVHD, and will lead to the development of novel regimens for prevention and treatment of chronic GVHD,” Zeng said.
 

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