Long-Term Follow-Up

Seeking better treatments for patients

Dr. Yoshihiro Inamoto learns important lessons at the Hutchinson Center

Dr. Yoshihiro Inamoto

After Dr. Yoshihiro Inamoto completed his studies in Nagoya, Japan, he knew there was truly only one place where he wanted to do a post-doctoral clinical research fellowship.

"In my field of hematology and transplantation, everyone knows that the Hutchinson Center is the best place in the world to pursue these studies," he said.

Two years ago, he fulfilled his dream of coming to Seattle to follow his passion under some of the most renowned names in the field. And so far, he has learned quite a bit, especially from patients. He noticed that patients were facing similar problems after transplant all over the world.

"At the Center, one of my duties is to work with patients who have been discharged from the system, patients who have already gone through with their transplants," he said.

"One of my areas of work deals with complications from chronic graft-vs.-host disease (GVHD). There’s much that we still don’t know about why some patients have so many problems in this area. And when you suffer from GVHD, it very much affects your quality of life.

"Our goal at the Center, my goal, is to come up with answers so we can assist our patients to lead better lives," he said.

Most recently, Inamoto has been focusing on the effect of GVHD and how it is treated on the patient’s risk of cancer relapse after transplant. Acute and chronic GVHD are major complications after allogeneic (donor) blood or marrow transplants, and have been thought to protect against cancer relapse. However, GVHD can be life-threatening, and can seriously affect quality of life.  

Researchers such as Inamoto are trying to determine the optimal use of immunosuppressive therapy to prevent or treat GVHD. These therapies also may influence the risk of cancer relapse.

Patients who had GVHD continue to have a lower risk of relapse after transplant. Those who never had GVHD continue to have a certain risk of relapse. However, stopping preventative immunosuppressive therapy early can help reduce this risk.

"Patients can have chronic problems caused by GVHD as well as worries about cancer relapse," Inamoto said. "We are working to determine how to best prevent and treat GVHD without taking away the beneficial effects of reduced risk of relapse. Optimizing treatment for GVHD is certainly important for patients to gain the most benefit from their transplants."

Inamoto sees patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and he participates in three weekly conferences to discuss long-term patient issues. And when he is not at the office, he enjoys getting to know the city and its surroundings.

"I love hiking Mt. Rainier, and the Cascades are also great for hiking. The city of Seattle is wonderful and it has been easy adjusting to its daily life and culture," he said.

His goal is to continue his clinical research and get more involved in patient care. "My life-long goal will be to figure out which treatments will be better for our transplant patients," he said.

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