Experimental arthritis drug prevents stem cell transplant complication
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An investigational drug in clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis prevents a common, life-threatening side effect of stem cell transplants, new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows. Studying mice, the researchers found the drug prevented what’s known as graft-versus-host disease, a debilitating, sometimes lethal condition that develops when transplanted stem cells attack the body’s own organs or tissues.

About half of patients receiving donor stem cells develop graft-versus-host disease, which can linger for months or years after their transplants. In some cases, patients die not from their cancer but from the complication itself. Current treatments are not effective.

The study is online in the journal Leukemia.

In past work, this research team defined the role of molecules called JAK1/2 kinases and their signaling pathways in immune cell activation and graft-vs-host disease. In the new study, these same researchers evaluated ruxolitinib and baricitinib, and found baricitinib to be the superior of the two drugs in reducing and preventing graft-versus-host-disease in mice. Both drugs belong to a class of pharmaceuticals called JAK inhibitors that are known for dialing down inflammation.

“Transplanted donor stem cells — and more specifically, the T cells in the donor stem cell product

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