Common diabetes drug may help prevent severe complication from stem cell transplant

May 25, 2020

A drug for people with type 2 diabetes may reduce the occurrence of acute graft vs. host disease in patients who received peripheral blood stem cell transplants. 

The immune dysfunction can affect between 34% and 51% of transplant patients and is one of the major complications for patients weeks after a transplant, limiting the effectiveness of a cure for leukemia and lymphoma.

A preliminary clinical study at the Indiana University School of Medicine showed 78% of the patients in the study of the drug sitagliptin did not develop the disease, and none of them died.

“This is an early study but shows promise to help patients after peripheral blood stem cell and cord blood transplantation,” said Dr. Rachel Beddard, Chief Medical Officer at BioBridge Global. “A medication that significantly reduces the risk of this complication, as this medication appears to in early studies, would truly help transplant patients.

“I look forward to seeing larger studies on this.”

An earlier pilot study by the same team evaluated sitagliptin for enhancement of cord blood engraftment. Results showed only one of 16 patients developed grade 2 acute GVHD, suggesting the drug as a new strategy for GVHD prevention.

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