(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – A B-cell protein is a potential drug target in the treatment of Graft Versus Host Disease, according to a team of researchers of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC. This conclusion is based on a study entitled “B cells from patients with chronic GVHD are activated and primed for survival via BAFF mediated pathways,” which was published in Blood on August 14.
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.