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B Cell Survival Holds Key to Graft-Versus-Host Disease
Leukemia and lymphoma patients who receive life-saving stem-cell or bone-marrow transplants often experience chronic side effects that can last a lifetime and ultimately affect the patients’ long-term survival.
In chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), differences between the donor bone-marrow cells and the recipient's body often cause the immune cells to recognize the recipient's tissues as foreign, and the newly transplanted cells attack the recipient's body. Symptoms can include dry eyes, dry mouth, hair loss, skin rashes, vulnerability to infection, and liver, lung, and digestive-tract disorders.
It has been estimated that 40% to 70% of patients who receive bone marrow or stem cells may develop chronic GVHD.
Antibody-producing B cells are one type of immune cell involved in GVHD. In a paper published in Blood, a team at the University of North Carolina shows that B cells from patients with chronic GVHD are much more active than cells from patients without the disease. The team also describes the cell-signaling pathways that contribute to this increased activity — identifying a promising new target for the treatment of GVHD.
The researchers announced their findings on August 16.
Steroids are currently the only standard treatment for chonic GVHD, and they are often ineffective. The new study implicates a protein called BAFF — a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family — in the accelerated B-cell signaling that occurs in GVHD patients.
The investigators hope to develop targeted therapeutic agents, such as anti-BAFF drugs or small-molecule inhibitors of serine/threonine kinases, for the treatment of patients with chronic GVHD.
For more information, visit the University of North Carolina Health Care Web site.