HIV Drug Raises Hope for Better Bone Marrow Transplant Recovery

July 12, 2012

An existing HIV drug dramatically reduced the most serious complications of bone marrow transplants – graft-versus-host disease, in which newly transplanted immune cells attack healthy tissue in the patient’s body that they they perceive as foreign – according to new research from an Abramson Cancer Center team published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. A front page story in the Philadelphia Inquirer details the approach used in the study, which repurposed the drug maraviroc – approved for use in HIV patients in 2007 – to redirect new immune cells away from organs in the body they are likely to harm. After the researchers added maraviroc to the standard immune-suppressing regimen for 33 days beginning two days before the procedure, they found that just 6 percent of patients developed a severe form of the disease by six months after transplantation; typically, 22 percent would have. After one year, 15 percent of the patients developed severe disease, compared with the normal 29 percent – without slowing the time it took for the patients’ new immune systems to engraft in their bodies or prompting a greater risk of side effects like infections or a relapse of their cancer. “We were surprised we got some good efficacy for the study,” lead author Ran Reshef, MD, an assistant professor in the division of Hematology-Oncology, told Forbes. “This was a pilot study that went wild.” The Inquirer story also ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and additional coverage appeared on Yahoo! News and in Newsday (via HealthDay News). David Porter, MD, professor of Medicine and director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, and Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, associate professor of Medicine and Associate Director for Translational Research at the Abramson Cancer Center, are the senior authors of the study.

 Penn Medicine News Release

 Philadelphia Inquirer article

 Forbes article

Yahoo! News article (via HealthDay News)

Bone Marrow Transplant at Penn

Penn’s Hematologic Malignancies Research Program