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Novel insights into the complexity of graft-versus-host disease

Published online 6 April 2016

Graft-versus-host disease resulting from blood and marrow transplantation can be early diagnosed by measuring CXCL10 protein in blood.

Islam Elkholi

CXCL10, an inflammatory protein, can be used as a diagnostic biomarker for chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGvHD), according to a recent study1.

cGvHD is an immunologic reaction, where the donor’s immune cells attack the recipient’s body cells following blood or bone marrow transplantation.

Although transplantation procedures are the definitive management in serious diseases such as leukaemia, there are no clinically validated prognostic or early diagnostic biomarkers for cGvHD, which complicates these procedures.

Now an international research team puts forward CXCL10 protein as a putative diagnostic marker of cGvHD.

By analysing blood samples from two different groups of a total of 36 cGvHD patients, the most significantly present eleven markers, including CXCL10, were selected for further analysis. By applying highly selective criteria, 134 patients from two replication groups were selected to be analysed for the presence of the eleven chosen markers. 

Interestingly, CXCL10 was the most consistent marker, although it wasn’t detected in patients with late onset of cGvHD. "The discrepancy in the biomarkers levels, including CXCL10, supports the complexity of cGVHD being impacted by multiple clinical factors", says Kirk Schultz, from the BC Children's Hospital at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

"This study shows the long road we still have ahead of us towards understanding the complexity of GvHD," adds Schultz. 

The team included researchers from sixteen Canadian and American institutes; in addition to the University Hospital Regensburg in Germany and the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Saudi Arabia.


Kariminia, A. et al. Heterogeneity of chronic graft-versus-host disease biomarkers: the only consistent association is with CXCL10 and CXCR3+ NK cells. Blood (2016).