News & Events

A Grand Challenge for the haematology team to limit GvHD

Article Date: 23.03.13
Category: Clinical Trials

A multidisciplinary team of scientists, clinicians, and clinical trialists from Birmingham have won £1.7M of Medical Research Council funding to understand and eliminate harmful immune responses after Stem Cell Transplantation (SCT).

The grant, termed an MRC Experimental Medicine Grand Challenge, will be headed by Professor Paul Moss, and also involve Dr Ram Malladi, Professor Charlie Craddock, Professor Peter Lane, and Professor David Adams.

SCT remains one of the most effective ways to cure haematological tumours such as leukaemia, due to powerful  immune responses elicited by the donor immune cells against the patient’s tumour cells, a phenomenon known as the graft-versus-leukaemia (or GvL) effect.

However, unfortunately such beneficial responses often go hand-in-hand with a more generalised attack of donor immune cells on the patient’s body, known as graft-versus-host disease or GvHD. These responses can involve multiple organs (e.g. skin, gut and liver), and can be life threatening, contributing to the high mortality of SCT.

The new grant will enable the researchers to define when key initiating immune responses take place, and should help focus immunosuppressive treatments on patients that critically require them, whilst allowing helpful tumour-specific responses to be maintained in less GvHD-susceptible populations. In addition, it will aim to understand which immune receptors allow some immune cells  to home to key sites of GvHD, such as the skin or liver. Understanding of these processes should shed light on fundamental aspects of immunology, as well as provide potential targets for therapeutic intervention in order to suppress GvHD responses.

To watch Professor Moss talk about Stem Cell Transplantation, click here.