Center News

Mielcarek lands $2.2 million GVHD grant

NHLBI grant will expand research into protective mechanisms of statins against severe acute graft-vs.-host disease in transplant patients

May 16, 2011
Dr. Marco Mielcarek

The five-year grant will build upon previous work by Dr. Marco Mielcarek and colleagues that found patients who received stem cells harvested from donors who had taken statins received profound protection against severe acute graft-vs.-host disease.

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The Clinical Research Division’s Dr. Marco Mielcarek has received $2.2 million from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to continue research on whether statin treatment is effective at reducing the risk of graft-vs.-host disease in patients receiving an allogeneic stem cell transplant. While statins are a class of drugs for treating high cholesterol, they also have immune-modulating effects.

The five-year grant will build upon previous work that Mielcarek and colleagues published last year in Blood, which found that patients who received stem cells harvested from donors who had taken statins received profound protection against severe acute GVHD.

The new grant has three major aims:

  • Optimize a statin regimen that has been shown to protect against GVHD in a preclinical model by answering these questions:
    - Can the duration of donor statin treatment be shortened to less than three weeks without compromising efficacy?
    - Is it sufficient to treat only the donor with a statin before transplant (and not the recipient after transplant) for the GVHD-protective effect to work?
  • To translate this regimen into a prospective clinical trial.
  • Using T-cells from statin-treated human stem cell donors, perform laboratory studies to help define the protective mechanisms of statins in treating GVHD.

“These findings, if confirmed, will have a significant impact on improving the safety of clinical stem cell transplants,” said Mielcarek, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is a world leader in research to prevent, detect and treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases.