Researchers recently identified CXCL10, a protein that could act as a biomarker for chronic graft-vs-host disease (cGVHD). The disease is a long-term adverse effect that develops in some patients after undergoing blood and bone marrow transplant.1

Researchers discovered elevated levels of CXCL10 in the plasma of transplant recipients near the time these patients developed cGVHD. Testing transplant recipients for CXCL10 could allow for early diagnosis, which is important for the successful treatment of cGVHD.

“Diagnostic tests are desperately needed to make blood and marrow transplants safer,” said Kirk Schultz, MD, scientist at British Columbia Children’s Hospital and professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and senior author of the study.

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“At this time, there are no good tests to diagnose cGVHD and the disease can only be identified too late when it is already established. If we can diagnose it earlier and better, then treatments can be used to stop it before it becomes a chronic, disabling disease.”

For some children with leukemia, blood and bone marrow transplant is the only effective treatment. Unfortunately, cGVHD can develop when the immune system cells from the donated tissue launch an immune attack against the recipient’s cells.

“A child with leukemia can be cured with a blood and marrow transplant but then has to suffer a life-long disease — cGvHD — which causes a major decrease in their life expectancy and quality of life,” explained Schultz.

This study examined blood samples from 36 adult patients who developed cGVHD after blood and bone marrow transplant and from 31 adult patients who did not develop cGVHD after blood and bone marrow transplant, revealing 11 possible biomarkers for cGVHD.

Next, researchers assessed the 11 possible biomarkers in 134 patients who developed cGVHD and 154 controls who did not. Analysis of the 11 markers revealed that elevated levels of the inflammatory protein CXCL10 associated with the development of cGVHD.

Future research should examine cGVHD biomarkers in larger groups of populations.


1. Kariminia A, Holtan SG, Ivison S, et al. Heterogeneity of chronic graft-versus-host disease biomarkers: the only consistent association is with CXCL10 and CXCR3+ NK cells. Blood. 2016 Mar 28. doi: 10.1182/blood-2015-09-668251 [Epub ahead of print).