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U researcher to jointly lead $9.5M NIH study on chronic graft-versus-host disease

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $9.5 million grant to Bruce Blazar, M.D., of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota and two researchers with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to further their research on chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).

GVHD can occur after a patient undergoes a stem cell transplant for treatment of blood cancers and the transplanted donor cells perceive the recipient’s body as “foreign,” attacking the recipient’s organs and tissue. The response can lead to serious toxicity in patients who might otherwise be cured of their cancer.

The scientists hope to gain a better understanding of the biology of chronic GVHD (which starts later than three months after transplant and can last for years), identify the potential for GVHD in patients undergoing stem cell transplant, and begin clinical trials to test new prevention and treatment approaches, says Blazar, a Regents Professor and leader in the Masonic Cancer Center’s Transplant Biology and Therapy Research Program.

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