Graft Versus Host Disease – Information & Support
Sometimes when people receive stem cells from a donor (even if it’s a brother or sister), the new cells (graft) reacts against their tissues (host).
- This reaction is called graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), and essentially it’s the donor’s immune system attacking the patient’s body.
- There are medicines to prevent GVHD occurring, so these days when it does, it’s usually mild. However, in some people it can become very severe and even life-threatening.
- It mainly affects the skin, the gut (stomach and bowel) and the liver.
When it develops soon after the transplant it is called acute GVHD and is usually managed with drugs, including steroids, to suppress the new (donor’s) immune system and reduce the symptoms.
It can also develop at a later stage, or persist for months and sometimes years after the transplant.
If GVHD occurs, it does not mean that the transplant has failed. It may even be helpful, as some of the cells involved in the reaction may also attack any cancer cells in the body that have survived the high-dose treatment.
Join CanTeen’s online community to chat with other young people about GVHD… or anything really.