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U tests novel leukemia treatment

In the world’s first clinical trial of its kind, University of Minnesota researchers are testing an innovative way to reduce complications and improve survival rates in patients who undergo blood and marrow transplants.

The research team hopes to determine the optimal dose and safety of T regulatory cells (T-regs) to reduce the risk of immune reaction in transplant patients who have leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, or other blood and marrow disorders.

“We are exploring the possibility of using T-regs to enhance the rate of blood and marrow recovery and reduce the risks of graft-versus-host disease [GVHD], a complication that affects more than 60 percent of patients,” says Claudio Brunstein, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator.

In GVHD, immune cells in transplanted blood or marrow attack cells they don’t recognize, such as those in the patient’s own body.

T-regs are a type of lymphocyte, or white blood cell, that normally regulates the body’s immune responses. University researchers believe that donor T-regs may suppress the transplant recipient’s immune system, allowing the healthy donor’s blood-forming stem cells and immune cells to grow—thereby helping to ward off GVHD.

The T-regs in this study are isolated from umbilical cord blood—blood collected from the placenta right after the birth of a child—because cord blood has more T-regs than typically found in adults’ blood.

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