Bone marrow transplantation was one of the greatest breakthroughs in recent history that completely revolutionized blood cancer treatment for illnesses such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Essentially, these transplants have increased the survival rates of some blood cancer patients from almost 0% to a staggering 85%.
However, there is one major danger — BMT patients are at risk of developing graft versus host disease (GvHD), which is a severe and life-threatening complication that happens when the donor’s cells (graft) identify the recipient (host) as a foreign body.
Unfortunately, the mortality rate of GvHD is high — more than 90% in grade 4 GvHD.
Researchers have discovered that despite the immunosuppressive treatments, as much as 30% to 50% of patients who receive transplants from fully matching siblings, and 50% to 70% of patients who receive a transplant from an unrelated donor, develop some degree of GvHD. Moreover, there are no FDA-approved therapies that prevent or treat this condition as of yet.