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MCW Researcher to Study Main Complication after Bone Marrow Transplantation

July 8, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a four year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study graft versus host disease (GVHD), the major complication associated with bone marrow transplants.

William Drobyski, MD, professor of medicine (hematology and oncology), and microbiology and molecular genetics at MCW, and a practicing oncologist at Froedtert Hospital, is the primary investigator of the grant. Calvin Williams, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics (rheumatology) at MCW and a practicing rheumatologist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, is co-investigator. Dr. Williams is also an investigator at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute.

GVHD is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients who undergo allogeneic stem cell transplantation. The progression of inflammatory events that results in widespread tissue damage develops from an imbalance in the immune system. In particular, the sustained and progressive decrease in an immune cell population termed regulatory T cells is a hallmark of the disease and can lead to cataclysmic health effects.

In this study, Dr. Drobyski will define the role of specific regulatory T cell populations in GVHD, in order to develop strategies that will help patients better tolerate transplantation.

The overall goal of this proposal is to define the role of specific regulatory T cell populations in the pathophysiology of GVHD, and find ways to use those T cells, more effectively to prevent complications. Ultimately, researchers hope to translate the findings from this study into new approaches that will improve transplant outcomes and overall survival in patients by decreasing the frequency and severity of graft versus host disease.

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