Amber Pharmacy receives ACHC accreditation

November 26, 2015

GVHD is a common side effect in patients who receive blood stem cell transplants from related or unrelated donors. It occurs when the transplanted cells recognize the recipient's tissues as foreign and attack the tissues. This can cause a variety of problems, including skin rashes, diarrhea and liver inflammation. Acute GVHD often occurs in the first three months after a transplant and can lead to mortality as high as 50 percent if it is severe. It can be deadly because patients require more immunosuppressive drugs to treat it, which can trigger a cascade of complications such as secondary infections.

Mielcarek, first author Marcello Rotta, M.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the Hutchinson Center's Clinical Research Division, and colleagues undertook the study because previous research showed that statins have anti-inflammatory effects and have been found to improve control of other inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Recently, studies using mouse models of stem cell transplantation have shown protection against lethal acute GVHD when the donors and recipients had been treated with statins before transplant.

The exact mechanism of how statins protect against GVHD is not known.

"In the literature, a multitude of possible mechanisms are discussed by which statins may influence immune function," Mielcarek said. "One is cell adhesion - the stickiness of cells that influences how donor T cells that cause GVHD can migrate to certain target tissues. Another is how statins interfere with intracellular signaling in T cells. Statins may dampen the activity of allo-reactive T cells and prevent them from initiating the inflammatory cascade that's required to cause GVHD."

Source: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center