Stem cell transplantation outcomes ‘improved with new drug regime’

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New research suggests that outcomes for patients who have undergone stem cell transplants from unrelated or mismatched donors could be improved with the use of a drug called bortezomib, also known as velcade. This is according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

Stem cell transplants are treatments carried out in an attempt to cure some cancers affecting the body's bone marrow, such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

The treatment involves very high doses of chemotherapy (myeloablation) or whole body radiotherapy to clear a person's bone marrow and immune system of cancerous cells.

After this process, the killed cells are replaced with healthy stem cells through a drip that flows into a vein. These stem cells can be from the patient's own body or from a donor - preferably a sibling.

According to researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who conducted the study, stem cells from unrelated or mismatched donors are likely to lead to worse patient outcomes following transplantation.

These patients tend to have a higher mortality rate as a result of the treatment and are more likely to experience graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD). This is a disease in which the transplanted cells attack the immune system of the recipient.

According to the researchers, recipients of mismatched donor transplants have a severe GVHD rate of 37%, a 1-year treatment-related mortality rate of 45%, and a 1-year overall survival rate of 43%.

Recipients of unrelated donor transplants have a severe GVHD rate of 28%, a 1-year treatment-related mortality rate of 36%, and a 1-year overall survival rate of 52%.

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Stem cell transplantation outcomes 'improved with new drug regime'

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