Drug Target for GVHD Found
The design of this study is based on previous evidence of the role for B cells in the pathogenesis of chronic Graft Versus Host Disease (cGVHD). In GVHD, B cells derived from an allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant or a bone marrow transplant actually attack the recipients host cells. Patients with hematological cancer who have received either of these transplants experience GVHD, with 40 to 70% of these patients experiencing the chronic form of the disease.
In this study, the investigators aimed to determine the role of the B cell protein BAFF in the promotion of B cell metabolism and survival in GVHD. To meet this aim, the investigators collected peripheral B cells from 51 patients, who had been diagnosed with or without active cGVHD >1 year after receiving of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell (HSCT) transplantation.
In patients with active cGVHD, the investigators observed B cells that were “in a heightened metabolic state and were resistant to apoptosis.” This state was associated with increased BAFF levels and prolonged survival in B cells, which allows further destruction of host tissues, such as those in the lung and gastrointestinal tracts.
The investigators also outlined a cellular mechanism that suggests a link between elevated BAFF levels and aberrant B cell survival and thus identifies BAFF as a potential drug target in the treatment of cGVHD.