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Allogeneic bone marrow transplant (BMT) is an essential treatment to cure patients with blood cancers such as leukemia. In patients who have undergone chemotherapy and radiation, a small number of cancer cells can remain in the bloodstream and allow the malignancy to recur.

Replacing host bone marrow is the best strategy for preventing relapse but recipients cannot always find an ideal, biologically matched donor. The less well-matched the donor, the higher the risk for developing graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). In GVHD, donor cells trigger an immune response that attacks normal tissues, leading to a chain reaction of cellular and molecular responses that increase morbidity and mortality in these patients. A long-standing question has been how to improve the success of BMT by reducing GVHD incidence while, at the same time, preserving the anti-tumor response of donor cells.

New research by a team of investigators at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) directed by Xue-Zhong Yu, M.D., professor of Microbiology and Immunology, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Minnesota, demonstrates that one particular family of microRNAs (miRs), called miR-17-92, is responsible for the T-cell and B-cell pathogenicity that causes GVHD. The findings were reported in an article prepublished

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