Discovery and validation of graft-versus-host disease biomarkers

Sophie Paczesny


Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) is the most effective tumor immunotherapy available. Although allo-HSCT provides beneficial graft-versus-tumor effects, acute GVHD (aGVHD) is the primary source of morbidity and mortality after HSCT. Diagnosis of aGVHD is typically based on clinical symptoms in one or more of the main target organs (skin, liver, gastrointestinal tract) and confirmed by biopsy. However, currently available diagnostic and staging tools often fail to identify patients at higher risk of GVHD progression, unresponsiveness to therapy, or death. In addition, there are shortcomings in the prediction of GVHD before clinical signs develop, indicating the urgent need for noninvasive and reliable laboratory tests. Through the continuing evolution of proteomics technologies seen in recent years, plasma biomarkers have been identified and validated as promising diagnostic tools for GVHD and prognostic tools for nonrelapse mortality. These biomarkers may facilitate timely and selective therapeutic intervention but should be more widely validated and incorporated into a new grading system for risk stratification of patients and better-customized treatment. This review identifies biomarkers for detecting GVHD, summarizes current information on aGVHD biomarkers, proposes future prospects for the blinded evaluation of these biomarkers, and discusses the need for biomarkers of chronic GVHD.

  • Submitted August 8, 2012.
  • Accepted October 31, 2012.
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