Researchers at St. Mary’s Hospital have discovered a method that can drastically increase the survivability of patients suffering from aplastic anemia, an intractable blood disease, the hospital said Monday.
|Professor Lee Jong-wook|
Aplastic anemia is a disease in which the number of hematopoietic stem cells decreases and impairs the production of red blood and white blood cells and platelets. It causes anemia, serious infections, bleeding, and in severe cases can cause fatalities.
The best treatment for the cure of severe aplastic anemia is allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation donated from siblings with a histocompatibility antigen (HLA) match. However, there is only a 25 percent chance of finding a sibling donor with an HLA match.
As an alternative, hospitals perform transplantation from unrelated donors with HLA matching, but this has also proven difficult to find a suitable donor.
Against this backdrop, the Center for Aplastic Anemia in the Blood Hospital of St. Mary's Hospital of the Catholic University of Korea has received significant attention from the academic community as it has continuously succeeded in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation with family members that do not have an HLA match.
Until now, HLA inconsistent blood transplantation has had a low success rate due to high complications such as engraftment failure and graft versus host reaction.
Thirty-four patients who underwent HLA mismatched blood transplantation at Seoul St. Mary’s Blood Hospital succeeded in receiving the operation. Recently, the hospital has increased the survival rate by controlling the amount of whole-body radiation and immunosuppressive agents administered before transplant.
The new method increased the two-year survivability to 91.7 percent, which is a drastic increase from conventional HLA match operation’s 70 percent. Also, the hospital’s results showed superiority to other countries such as the U.S. and China which reported 65 to 85 percent survival rate, respectively.
The hospital expects that its new method will give hope to patients with aplastic anemia as it can easily obtain donations from HLA-incompatible families.
“As nuclear families increase, there is also a growth in the incidence of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation that does not have an HLA match,” said Professor Lee Jong-wook, president of the Korean Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation.
As the development of high-risk grafting techniques has resulted in an increase in transplantation and success rates in patients with elderly or other underlying diseases, the hospital plans to continuously develop methods related to hematopoietic stem cell transplantation therapies so it can improve the quality of life after transplantation, Lee added.
American Journal of Hematology published the result of the study.