Graft-versus-Host-Disease (GVHD)

Graft-versus-Host-Disease (GVHD) is an immune condition that occurs after transplant procedures when immune cells from the donor (known as the graft or graft cells) attack the recipient patient host’s tissues. Essentially GVHD is very complicated, which makes it extremely difficult to treat.

Bone marrow transplantation—more formally known as haematopoietic stem cell transplantation—can cure otherwise incurable blood cancers, such as leukaemia and lymphoma. However, around half of all transplant patients develop the debilitating and potentially life-threatening GVHD as a complication.

GVHD can occur early (acute) or late (chronic) post-transplant.

Chronic GVHD occurs when the donor graft recognises the patient’s tissue as foreign, and starts to reject it. Over time the tissue becomes severely damaged and the scarring, or fibrosis, can affect a person’s skin, lungs and mouth.

Acute GVHD usually manifests within 100 days following the transplant. It is induced by donor T cells responding to the mismatched host polymorphic histocompatibility antigens.

Our researchers are working on developing safer, better, treatments for transplant patients.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019. Cancer in Australia. Canberra: AIHW. [Accessed October 2019].

Graft-versus-Host-Disease (GVHD) studied at QIMR Berghofer

  • Chronic Graft-versus-Host-Disease (cGVHD)
  • Acute Graft-versus-Host-Disease (aGVHD)

Our researchers are

  • Investigating the cellular processes and immunological mechanisms involved in GVHD
  • understanding the pathophysiology of GVHD using innovative technologies and pre-clinical models of disease
  • Developing new treatment methods where bone marrow transplantation can be carried out using ‘half matched’ donors, and adding a safety gene into the donor T cells to make them disappear if they cause GVHD
  • Leading clinical trials using these genetically engineered regulatory T cells to treat GVHD

Our researchers have