UM researchers developing treatment to make bone marrow transplants safer

Dec 10, 2012

University of Michigan researchers are developing a new use for an old drug.

Small doses of medicine already used to treat cancer may reduce inflammation in patients after a bone marrow transplant.

These transplants can save a cancer patient's life, but many recipients suffer from a life-threatening side effect called Graft-versus-host disease. It occurs when the donated cells attack their new host's tissues.

The drug Vorinostat could help reduce that risk. For the first time, researchers at U-of-M's Comprehensive Cancer Center are testing that possibility on human patients.

Dr. Sung Choi is one of those researchers.

"This could have a huge impact in reducing the one barrier to good quality of life and outcomes in transplants," she said.

Doctor Pavan Reddy has been studying effects of the drug on mice for a decade. He said he was surprised by the unknown properties of the medicine.

"Right now, it looks like it could make a difference to these patients who would otherwise frankly just die," he said.

Forty-seven patients have already undergone the new treatment in a clinical trial, and more extensive tests are planned for next year.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom