Experimental Arthritis Drug helps Prevent Graft Versus Host Condition

Published Date : Apr 25, 2018

According to a new study from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, an investigational drug that is currently undergoing trial for rheumatoid arthritis has shown effective results in preventing a commonly known and life-threatening side-effect associated with stem cell transplant therapies. Studying the drug on mice subjects, the scientists found out that the drug helps in preventing a condition wherein stem cell transplanted in a body attack its own tissues or organs. The graft versus host condition can be debilitating and also lethal at times.

Nearly fifty percent of the patients who receive stem cell transplants develop the condition, which can affect the patient for months or even years post transplantation. There are also cases wherein the patients can die from the complication. Most current treatments for the condition prove ineffective.

Researchers have analyzed two drugs that belong to the class of drugs called JAK inhibitors known for reducing inflammation - ruxolitinib and baricitinib. It was found that baricitinib is better at preventing the graft versus host condition in mice. While T cells in the donor stem cells fight leukemia, these cells can sometimes attack the healthy tissues in patients, leading to the graft versus host condition. The conventional ways of reducing the condition also tend to shut down the attack of T cells on the cancer. Unpredictably, baricitinib, along with preventing the graft versus host condition, also boosted T cells’ ability of attacking cancer.

While it is not exactly known how it effects, the researchers are working towards understanding it better. In part, the researchers believe that the drug kills the immune defenses in the leukemia cells, making T cells to attack them easily. Moreover, the drug also stops the T cells in the donor stem cells from attacking the healthy tissues and organs, such as gastrointestinal tract, skin, and lever. The study has been published in the journal Leukemia.