The management of chronic graft-versus-host disease.
Chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a major cause of late morbidity and mortality following allogeneic marrow transplantation. The pathogenesis and clinical features of chronic GVHD resemble those of several autoimmune diseases including progressive systemic sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematous, lichen planus, Sjögren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and primary biliary cirrhosis. Chronic GVHD retards the tempo of immune reconstitution following allogeneic transplantation and is a major risk factor for late infections. Although in vivo immunosuppression and in vitro depletion of T-cells can reduce the incidence of acute GVHD, improved long-term survival free of chronic GVHD has not been observed. Early treatment of multiorgan extensive chronic GVHD with an alternating-day regimen of cyclosporine and prednisone has led to improved disability-free survival. Functional performance of the long-term survivors receiving combination immunosuppressive therapy remained near normal and the incidence of disabling scleroderma has decreased from over 50% to 6%. However, infections remain a frequent cause of morbidity especially in high-risk patients with advanced age, HLA-nonidentical marrow grafts, progressive onset of chronic GVHD and continued thrombocytopenia.
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