A disease caused by bone marrow transplants has at least two distinctive molecular forms, each of which might need a different treatment approach, researchers at the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) have discovered. Led by post-doctoral fellow Dr. Jacob Rozmus, research like this shows the importance of funding fellowship positions at CFRI, which is located on the BC Children’s Hospital site.
Donor blood and bone marrow transplantation is a key treatment for blood-related cancers. However, in a quarter of children who receive donated bone marrow, the donor immune cells attack the recipient’s tissues, resulting in a debilitating disease called chronic graft-versus-host-disease (cGVHD). cGVHD is the number one cause of transplantation-related illness, and kills one-in-five children within 15 years of its onset.
“We’ve found evidence that there may be different pathological mechanisms responsible for chronic GVHD depending on when the disease presents after bone marrow transplantation,” says Dr. Jacob Rozmus, who is also an oncologist at BC Children’s Hospital.
Previous research at CFRI under Dr. Kirk Schultz, Dr. Rozmus’ supervisor, has revealed that there are two distinct periods of cGVHD onset — within three to eight months of transplantation, and after nine months. It’s also known that, after the use of immunosuppressant medication, a transplant patient’s immune system reconstitutes itself in gradual steps.
Dr. Rozmus’ study explored whether it was possible to see the cGVHD differences over time reflected in small proteins called cytokines that play a critical role in cell communication. The researchers examined the cytokine profiles of 33 early onset and 11 late onset cGVHD patients, all of whom were part of the Children’s Oncology Group phase III trial for cGVHD treatment.
“Despite our small number of patients, we found significantly different cytokine patterns between the early and late onset cGVHD groups,” says Dr. Rozmus. While he says the results require validation in a larger study, they reveal the potential power of cytokine profiles as an accurate molecular marker for treating children with cGVHD.
“Cytokines could potentially be used to diagnose cGVHD and help clinicians choose the best course of therapy,” says Dr. Schultz, director of Childhood Cancer and Blood Research at BC Children’s Hospital and CFRI, in whose lab the current work was done.
The Kiwanis Children’s Cancer Program (KCCP), which will support research like this through the oncology fellowship program at BC Children’s Hospital, will play an important role in the future of children’s health. By supporting the leading-edge research that brings scientists and clinicians together to solve the mysteries of childhood diseases, Kiwanis Clubs of British Columbia /Yukon, the Kiwanis family and the Kiwanis Foundation of Canada is helping to improve the lives of children living with cancer, and their families, throughout the region.
Please contact Darlene Smith at email@example.com to get more details and tips on how your club can support BC Children’s Hospital and the fellowship program.