Scientists have made new development, showing new hope for bone marrow transplant patients. Clinical trials led by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital are set to change international practice for the treatment of leukaemia patients undergoing bone marrow transplants.
Professor Geoff Hill, said the Phase I/II trials resulted in a significant drop in cases of acute graft versus host disease (GVHD), a potentially fatal complication from stem cell transplants. The incidence of acute GVHD was reduced from the usual 50 percent, to 12 percent of transplant patients in the trial.
Severe cases, which often result in death, were reduced from 21 percent to 4 percent, he added.
Professor Hill said irradiation followed by bone marrow transplant was now the standard treatment for blood cancers such as leukaemia, and was generally successful.
He said that the treatment did result in a ramped up response in the patient's immune system, and unfortunately in acute GVHD this was directed towards normal tissues in the skin, gut and liver. To try to prevent this from happening, they had administered the drug Tocilizumab (TCZ) to inhibit the immune system's production of the protein IL-6, which stimulated body's response to trauma, which resulted in a large drop in the incidence of acute GVHD for those participating in the study.
Glen Kennedy, said the results of the Phase I/II trial represented a significant advance in bone marrow transplant treatments.
A Phase III study now underway at RBWH would be the final test before the addition of TCZ to the GVHD prevention regime is registered and adopted in clinical practice. TCZ has been currently approved for use treating rheumatoid arthritis.
The results were published in the Lancet Oncology.