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Prognostic genetic test project seeks to improve stem cell transplant success


Toronto, ON – The Ontario Genomics Institute (OGI) says it is supporting a research project that is seeking to improve outcomes for hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplants, commonly referred to as bone marrow transplants.

Worldwide, some 20,000 HSC transplants are performed each year to treat leukemia, lymphoma, solid tumours and certain inherited diseases like thalassemias and anemias. Transplant failure, graft versus host disease, complications with anti-rejection medications, and the follow-up care required to address them, are a burden for transplant patients as well as private and government health care providers. Additional predictive or “prognostic” tests for stem cell transplant outcomes, based on the individual genetic make-up of potential donors and recipients, could be used to significantly reduce or better manage these burdens. The underlying individual genetic variations, and the molecular interactions they affect, may also provide insights leading to potential new anti-rejection therapeutics.

Project leads Drs Jayne Danska (the Hospital for Sick Children), John Dick and Jean Wang (both of University Health Network) draw on their experience as internationally-influential scientists applying genomics technologies to understand autoimmune disease, blood cell cancers and cancer stem cells.

With previous funding from Genome Canada through OGI, and resources from other funders, they identified variants in a protein called SIRPα that contributes to the interaction between transplanted blood stem cells and the recipient’s bone marrow environment. The research team has begun a retrospective genetic analysis of association between SIRPα genetic variants and outcomes of HSC transplants in 200 pairs of donors and recipients. With a panel of novel genetic tests they developed, they will develop and validate prognostic genetic tests in HSC transplant donors and recipients and evaluate the predictive power of the detected variations.

“Cellular transplants as well as the larger promise of gene therapy based on cellular transplants will be enabled by an improved understanding of the molecular basis of donor-recipient match,” commented Dr Christian Burks, president and CEO of OGI. “We are excited to be investing in this team and their application of genomics to personalized medicine to provide patients with tailored treatments based on their genetic make-up.”

“This research is an excellent example of taking research from the bench to the bedside,” commented Dr Danska. “We are delighted to have received this investment from OGI and look forward to validating these prognostic tests, and to identifying potential commercial partners who will then further develop the validated tests.”