Protecting Kids Against Graft-Versus-Host Disease

Joel Brochstein, MD, pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Cohen Children's Medical Center, set a challenge for himself: to prevent potentially fatal graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) for children who required stem cell transplants.

Dr. Brochstein had read of promising results at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia in adult leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome patients who had undergone haploidentical transplants, and he now applies that methodology to patients at Cohen Children's.

"During the past several years, clinical and laboratory scientists have collaborated to develop ways to remove the cells that cause GvHD. This makes transplants from mismatched family members very feasible for patients who lack a fully matched donor," Dr. Brochstein said. "Haploidentical stem cell transplantation removes the requirement for a perfectly matched donor, allowing us to perform transplants across tissue-type compatibility barriers."

Haploidentical stem cell transplantation can help children with a variety of blood disorders, including myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). "We have an opportunity to treat more children with this new approach," Dr. Brochstein said. "We plan to broaden the use of haploidentical transplantation to include children with nonmalignant, yet serious, blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and aplastic anemia."

Read the Fall 2016 issue of Kids First.

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