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St. David’s South Austin Medical Center enrolls first patient in drug study for transplant complications

AUSTIN, Texas—The Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Center at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center recently enrolled the first patient in the world to participate in a drug trial to treat a potentially fatal complication from allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplants, or stem cell transplants using donated stem cells.

The hospital is one of 130 sites worldwide to participate in this study on the drug Itacitinib, which is being investigated as a treatment for chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD). cGVHD is a condition in which the peripheral blood stem cells that make up the donated bone marrow attack the patient’s healthy tissue and organs. If not effectively treated, this disease can impair organ function or lead to organ failure.

Aravind Ramakrishnan, M.D., a stem cell transplant physician and medical director of the Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Center at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, is the principal investigator for the trial.

“cGVHD remains a major contributor to transplant-related deaths and is one of the most significant barriers to successful transplants using donated stem cells,” Dr. Ramakrishnan said. “This drug may provide an additional treatment option to patients in our community.”

Standard treatment of moderate and severe cGVHD involves a class of drugs called corticosteroids, which includes cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone. However, prolonged exposure to high doses of corticosteroids has been associated with a number of significant adverse effects, including cardiovascular complications.

“Corticosteroids are profoundly anti-inflammatory and broadly immunosuppressive,” Dr. Ramakrishnan said. “As such, these drugs may increase the risk of cardiovascular effects, including fluid retention, arrhythmias, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.”

The GRAVITAS-309 clinical trial is expected to be completed in 2023.

Media Contacts:

Tina Shively or Erin Ochoa
Elizabeth Christian Public Relations