Acute and chronic graft versus host disease (GVHD) remain the major barriers to successful hematopoietic cell transplantation. The induction of GVHD may be divided into three phases: (i) recipient conditioning; (ii) donor T-cell activation; and (iii) effector cells mediating GVHD. This review examines GVHD prevention and treatment using this conceptual model as framework. The various pharmacological agents discussed impact on different phases of the GVHD cascade. For example, keratinocyte growth factor and interleukin (IL)-II are cytokines that may be useful in disrupting phase I of the GVHD cascade by blocking gastrointestinal tract damage, and lowering serum levels of lipopolysaccharide and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α. Cyclosporin, tacrolimus (FK-506) and sirolimus (rapamycin) are some of the main agents that disrupt phase II (donor T-cell activation). Mycophenolate mofetil and tresperimus probably act on this phase as well. Other novel drugs that affect phase II are tolerance-induction agents such as CTLA-4 and anti-CD40-ligand monoclonal antibodies, and preliminary results using CTLA-4 monoclonal antibody in GVHD prevention are encouraging. Examples of agents that disrupt phase III are the IL-2 receptor antagonist daclizumab and the anti-TNFα monoclonal antibody infliximab. These anti-cytokine antibodies have shown promising results in early studies. The most effective approach to GVHD prevention will probably be a combination regimen where the three phases of the GVHD cascade are disrupted. Once GVHD has occurred, all three phases of the cascade are activated. Developments of combination therapy for treatment of both acute and chronic GVHD are likely to yield better results than monotherapy. The numerous new treatment modalities presented should improve the outlook for patients with acute and chronic GVHD.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)